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Friday, March 30, 2007

More Google vs Viacom

Google managing counsel Michael Kwun wrote a peppered letter to the Washington Post in regards to the Viacom/ YouTube court case. His choice of language makes it sound as if the two parties involved are really wearing their battle gear, and you can only imagine the screaming and biting that went on in the background negotiations before Viacom started to sue! Some quotes (my emphasis):

Viacom’s lawsuit is an attack on the way people communicate on the Web and on the platforms that allow people to make the Internet their own. (...)

Content-hosting sites such as YouTube, Craigslist and MySpace that want to take advantage of the DMCA’s safe harbors must promptly remove infringing content if the copyright owner so requests, giving owners a quick remedy that doesn’t require going to court. Copyright owners, in return, have the responsibility to identify infringing material they want removed. Viacom’s lawyers helped craft this law but apparently don’t like it, after all. (...)

Viacom is attempting to rewrite established copyright law through a baseless lawsuit. In February, after negotiations broke down, Viacom requested that YouTube take down more than 100,000 videos. We did so immediately, working through a weekend. Viacom later withdrew some of those requests, apparently realizing that those videos were not infringing, after all. Though Viacom seems unable to determine what constitutes infringing content, its lawyers believe that we should have the responsibility and ability to do it for them. Fortunately, the law is clear, and on our side.

I dunno. It seems unrealistic both to expect of Viacom to monitor YouTube, or for Google/ YouTube to do so themselves – both models make it almost impossible to get a social media site running. The “safe harbor” seems to be favoring sites like YouTube in favor of the content owners like Viacom, because it puts the burden of proof on Viacom, not YouTube. But which solution would be feasible while making everyone happy – Viacom, the YouTube users, and Google/ YouTube? Is it enough if in the future, content creators like Viacom’s network simply don’t own their content (or the content location) anymore, but they’ll just be benefitting from the side-effects of increased attention (if they’re smart enough to provide the right means to fulfill the expectations of the attention stream, e.g. by offering high-quality subscriptions downloads of Colbert Report)?

[Thanks Ricardo R.!]


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