Viacom Lawsuit Against YouTube Still Useless

by on July 21, 2008 · 15 comments

Last week CNN Money reported on the latest development in the $1 billion lawsuit that media giant Viacom has filed against Google noting that:

Viacom has agreed to let Google strip identifying information from YouTube viewers’ data before complying with a judge’s order to hand over the records as part of a copyright infringement lawsuit.

This is a small victory for YouTube as it was able to at least provide some assurance to its user base that their viewing history would be protected. But this smaller triumph doesn’t change the larger picture: This lawsuit is pointless.

How can I make such an assertion? Anecdotal evidence!

Today I was discussing Joe Cocker—the blues singer made famous by his rearrangements of popular songs like “Help from my Friends” by the Beatles—with a co-worker. He mentioned that John Belushi used to parody cocker’s spastic dancing style on Saturday Night Live. My reaction to this was to immediately try to find a video of it on YouTube.

I had little luck finding anything on YouTube. A search for “john belushi joe cocker saturday night live” produced some Belushi material, but not the Cocker impression. I’m sure that nearly anything with the phrase “saturday night live” in the tag has been taken down by NBC.

I then tried “john belushi joe cocker” and got one video of Belushi doing a spot-on Cocker parody. Still it wasn’t an SNL video. I needed a bigger engine.

Enter Google, YouTube’s parent company since November of 2006. Throw the search terms “john belushi joe cocker saturday night live” into Google and you get a performance from SNL as the 2nd result.

As I said in a previous post that was picked up by the All Things D blog, booting content off of YouTube doesn’t delete the content from the Internet at large. Instead, it moves that content to smaller website and blogs, overseas servers, or other large video sites.

The Belushi-as-Cocker clips show this to be true. Belushi’s SNL performances haven’t been obliterated by take-down notices, they’ve just been shuffled around the web. Now they’re harder to find for folks like me and also harder for NBC to find so they can continue to post take-downs.

Business has to learn to adapt to the web and its ability to infinitely copy material and distribute around the world—and across legal jurisdictions—in an instant.

  • Ryan Radia

    The latest wrinkle is that Viacom wants to know if any Google employees have uploaded infringing files to YouTube. Naturally, Google has resisted, citing employee privacy. But the DMCA’s Safe Harbor specifically excludes service providers with actual knowledge of the circumstances surrounding copyright infringement.

    If Google has been knowingly facilitating copyright infringement, then it’s possible that YouTube might lose its Safe Harbor defense and end up on the hook for civil penalties.

  • Ryan Radia

    The latest wrinkle is that Viacom wants to know if any Google employees have uploaded infringing files to YouTube. Naturally, Google has resisted, citing employee privacy. But the DMCA’s Safe Harbor specifically excludes service providers with actual knowledge of the circumstances surrounding copyright infringement.

    If Google has been knowingly facilitating copyright infringement, then it’s possible that YouTube might lose its Safe Harbor defense and end up on the hook for civil penalties.

  • smokey

    The point raised by Ryan is an important one, that may not have gotten the attention it deserves. Based on what I’ve read about the early days of YouTube, and based on my own experiences working at an online video startup, I am absolutely sure that YouTube employees broke the DMCA. They may not have actually uploaded material themselves, although that would not surprise me, but they HAD to know what was getting put up. It just beggars the imagination to think they were blind to it.

  • smokey

    The point raised by Ryan is an important one, that may not have gotten the attention it deserves. Based on what I’ve read about the early days of YouTube, and based on my own experiences working at an online video startup, I am absolutely sure that YouTube employees broke the DMCA. They may not have actually uploaded material themselves, although that would not surprise me, but they HAD to know what was getting put up. It just beggars the imagination to think they were blind to it.

  • http://www.gmail.com Cayce Pollard

    “but they HAD to know what was getting put up”

    I know for SURE that the guys at AT&T know that people are setting up drug deals on the phone. And I’m pretty sure that the guys at Smith & Wesson know that guns are used to shoot people.

  • http://www.gmail.com Cayce Pollard

    “but they HAD to know what was getting put up”

    I know for SURE that the guys at AT&T know that people are setting up drug deals on the phone. And I’m pretty sure that the guys at Smith & Wesson know that guns are used to shoot people.

  • http://www.buyers-web.com Timon Weller

    Google may regret buying youtube now… however i think google will win the case with a solution that will be implemented on youtube to check for such things in future…

  • http://www.buyers-web.com Timon Weller

    Google may regret buying youtube now… however i think google will win the case with a solution that will be implemented on youtube to check for such things in future…

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