IF US MEDIA CONGLOMERATE Viacom wins its court battle with Google then the Internet will be controlled by Hollywood.
Looking through he various court papers it seems that Viacom's interest in getting Youtube to be seen as a 'pirate' is a clever policy to make safe harbour restrictions in the US Copyright Act and Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) null and void.
While it has wanted to distribute clips for its shows, it also wants those it has not approved taken down. Unfortunately it expects Youtube to know the difference. It also expects Youtube to pay vast sums of money if it gets it wrong.
This is the standard behaviour we have seen from the content industries when it comes to what they like to call 'piracy', that is, copyright infringement. They run around like chickens with their heads cut off. On one had they are suing people for so-called 'piracy' while at the same time they need the technology if they are going to survive.
According to an official statement on the court case penned by Zahavah Levine, Youtube's chief counsel, Viacom secretly uploaded its content to Youtube even while publicly complaining about its presence there.
It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately 'roughed up' the videos to make them look stolen or leaked, opened Youtube accounts using phony e-mail addresses, and even sent employees to Kinko's to upload clips from computers that couldn't be traced to Viacom.
Viacom did all this to promote its own shows while often losing track of what it was supposed to have approved.
"As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to Youtube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself," Youtube's spokesperson said.
While there was no way that Youtube could ever have known which Viacom content was and was not authorized, Viacom apparently thinks that Youtube should somehow have figured it out.
Viacom wants Youtube and every other web video service to investigate and police all content users upload, and it would subject those websites to crushing liabilities if they get it wrong.
Levine said that Viacom and plaintiffs claim that Youtube doesn't do enough to keep their copyrighted material off the site. She said Youtube is hoping that the judge will rule that the safe harbour provision of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act will protect Youtube from the plaintiffs' claims.
Viacom is plainly stupid. In labelling serious, responsible operations like Youtube as 'pirates' and demanding money by menacing lawsuits, it is leading many to wonder if its other claims against P2P websites and services are viable, too.
US federal law says that a website is not liable for copyright infringement if it takes down illegal content upon notification. Youtube has done that, so that should have been the end of the matter. Viacom seems to think it can squeeze more cash from online companies and users to cover its own inability to adapt to the Internet. µ