Tuesday, March 13, 2007

And So It Begins

Viacom has finally decided to go after YouTube, filing a lawsuit today that claims "massive copyright infringement" and seeks $1 billion in damages for an alleged 160,000 unauthorized clips that have been viewed 1.5 billion times. Viacom has also filed for an injunction, meaning that it is seeking to shut down YouTube until it complies with copyright law, though the scope of the injunction is unclear and Viacom might be seeking a more limited injunction. Or maybe not.

According to CNet, Viacom has made a statement saying YouTube has built
a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others' creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google
And further complains that
In fact, YouTube's strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site, thus generating significant traffic and revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden--and high cost--of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement.
As to whether YouTube has improperly shifted the burden of copyright enforcement onto victims, well, that's what the DMCA does, so it's hard to fault YouTube for following a law that was largely influenced by Big Content lobbyists.

In conversations with people, I've found most people believe that what happened to Napster could never happen to YouTube because they were somehow fundamentally different. With the filing of this suit, however, it should be clear that YouTube is facing a similar challenge and that whatever interests YouTube serves may very well take a back seat to Viacom's interest in enforcing its copyrights.

This case will be closely followed here.
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