It was reported today by various news outfits that Viacom will be suing Youtube for the tune of ONE BILLION DOLLARS (keep that number in your head for a moment) for copyright violations and that type of stuff.
Viacom is complaining that the site is using material from such hits as the Daily Show, South Park, Spongebob, David Letteman, etc etc, without permission.
They are complaining now… This instant… Only recently…
Youtube has been in existence since 2005 and since its startup has done nothing but show clips like the ones Viacom is railing against (along with the standard user created insanity).
So why now, eh? It’s probably got something to do with (and I’m just speculating here) that six months ago Youtube was bought by Google for… wait for it… ONE BILLION DOLLARS.
Before, when Youtube was rampant with copyright violators but didn’t have two nickels to rub together, Viacom was quietly enjoying the free publicity that comes with the “pirated” videos. They’re clips. Grainy, pixelated, not-even-betamax-quality video clips of at max 10 minutes long. They’re gags, segments, brief previews of things that someone may stumble upon and say “hey I should start watching that regularly and subject myself to the inane commercials that break it up!”
A lot of the stuff being “violated” would never be profitable again or see the light of DVD. David Letterman’s episodes get maybe three airings and are lost to the ether (12 years from now Alpha Centauri will get them new). You think Viacom would ever release the Daily Show in season box sets? At about 200 episodes per season… yeah right! And you could forget about the Craig Killborn years as they are just old. Viacom likes to bury old things. (Look at anything Nickelodeon has aired that isn’t Spongebob. See any You Can’t do that on Television DVDs? Doug?)
So now that Youtube has a corporate backer and has instituted mechanisms to battle copyright infringement, Viacom decides to let loose the lawyers. Get real. Viacom and indeed all other corporate legions of doom had their chance to kybosh Youtube when it was a piddly little basement operation. It would have been easy. So easy.
But it’s really all about the ONE BILLION DOLLARS. And although Viacom may have some legal footing in the law courts, I’m sure in the court of public opinion they’ll not have a leg to stand on! And that, more than an unauthorized 30 second clip of Cartman farting, will be Viacom’s undoing.