The ever delightful Mike Masnick over on Techdirt pointed out that young companies innovate, and old timers litigate. One is reminded of his words when reading about Viacom’s decision to YouTube-Google and seek a billion dollars in damages for copyright infringement. Cynthia Brumfield describes the lawsuit […]

The ever delightful Mike Masnick over on Techdirt pointed out that young companies innovate, and old timers litigate. One is reminded of his words when reading about Viacom’s decision to YouTube-Google and seek a billion dollars in damages for copyright infringement. Cynthia Brumfield describes the lawsuit as “fluffy.”

Viacom argues that YouTube has knowingly infringed on others’ copyrights, but I guess it is the “knowingly” part that is going to be hard to prove. As Cynthia points out, “There is nothing in this complaint at all about the DMCA and whether YouTube is violating that law, which protects websites from infringement liability if the sites comply with rights holders’ take-down requests.” The whole thing is a little kooky, including the math behind the numbers, as Liz points out.

Someone over on NTV comments pointed out that YouTube has very little watchable user generated content, and quite a bit of content from media companies. I am not sure, given the pace with which YouTube’s traffic has grown even after Viacom asked them to take down their videos.

According to Hitwise, a web traffic analysis company, Viacom sites had 0.12% and 0.16% of weekly market share of total US visits in January and February 2007. In comparison, YouTube had 0.44% and 0.66% of the total visits.

I have argued in response to that comment that Viacom Inc. could have done something about this a long time ago, but didn’t and basically are using this lawsuit to paper over their own incompetence.

mtvyoutube1.pngmtvyoutube2.pngHere is proof: Viacom’s MTV vs YouTube traffic and visitor comparisons. See for yourself, who really missed the boat here! (Data Source: Compete.com) So why sue now? My guess is that they have been reading Google’s SEC filings and trying to figure out how to get some of those billions sitting in the bank!

  1. There is a larger issue at play here — which is that content owners want to monetize their assets themselves as opposed to having other people take a cut of the pie.

    The days of companies making money without paying for it are gone – basically YouTube got $1.65B without paying the folks who made them successful.

    In my opinion, this will change going forward.

  2. the whole I’m innocent and I’ll take down what you ask me to act is old…..you can make a mistake once but if you have to be asked more than once to take down copyrighted content then it should be punished….if youtube can’t monitor copyright content being uploaded on their site then they shouldn’t be in the business because they are helping to steal and are an accomplice

  3. come on OM, how many times would you go to YouTube if there was only user generated content ? traffic is raising because of all the illegal content. Remove all of them..youtube traffic will fall.

    if gigaom starts a Vlog tomorrow, would you host it on youtube ? Youtube is not the platform for quality user generated content. Not unless they pay you to host videos. Pay per view or something.

  4. I second the anti-youtube comments above.
    Also, while I can understand the point that Viacom could have had better reach to the consumer through Youtube coz of the traffic share .. I think comparing youtube’s traffic share to MTV’s share is just plain wrong!
    Could you compare a Merc showroom’s visitor strength to a showroom that houses ALL the brands incl. Merc? Agreed it is kinda likely that more people who just come to see other brands might see Merc as well, but the visitors who come to Merc excl. showroom would be very very focused in checking Mercs out alone!

  5. The stats from compete.com prove viacom’s point – Note that they had a 46% surge in last month after youtube removed content, but overall drop in last year, which we can say was because of youtube taking away traffic from them. I don’t think copying copyrighted content and wrapping them around with text ads is a fair business. It is very unfair to all those people who have put in their heart and soul in making the content. I like watching shows in youtube but don’t support their model – the money needs to be shared between creators/producers/distributors, but in this case only the distributors are at gain.

  6. I think the issue is less that YouTube “knowingly” enabled copyright-infringement, but rather that there have monetized illegal content via banner ads.

    Nobody talks much about this, but if one actually reads the DCMA law, there is a line which says that a ISP loses safe-harbor if they receive revenue from the material.

  7. Some time ago, when the GooTube deal was done, we noted that all the music studios except EMI had got in on Google’s acquisition, but the TV and Film studios hadn’t.

    We wondered then how they would get their hands on their share of the loot, after all it was mainly their content that made YouTube worth $1.65bn.

    This can’t be that much of a surprise…

  8. Om – Honestly this is the first time I have fundamentally disagreed with you. Your premise is way off the mark.

    First let’s agree that taking down 160K clips was not about traffic. Furthermore, YouTube has been integrated into Google video so with two fronts doors it’s not surprising that traffic is going up.

    Second, this is a shaping move about the industry. If i can take all your content, host it, serve it, have users consume it and provide you nothing in exchange then we are all in trouble.

    How about i screen scrape GigaOm, republish it at an aggregator site where I screen scrape all FM blogs, NYT, WSJ, take out all the ads and replace with mine. Have no referral back to your site. And say – you should thank me for the promo.

    Work for you?

    Google is the new microsoft, bottom line. They would not have done this 2 years ago. They should have paid and unleashed the content and taken the long view.

  9. Adam,

    thanks for the disagreement, and I think it is good you are offering a counter argument. my argument is

    1. they could have done this, but didn’t
    2. they could have prevented the infringement early on, but they didn’t or weren’t paying attention.
    3. the infringers were consumers who were putting up the videos, not the management of YT, though they turned a blind eye, and they are guilty of it.
    4. Why now? Because Google’s money.
    5. I agree, it is a shaping move about the industry.
    6. On the scraping issue – well that works if you have massive scale, and there are scrapers who are doing this on a daily basis.

    whenever we find them, we get them to take the content off, and basically that’s exactly what youtube is doing for all media owners.

    a lawsuit? lets see… how that works out.

    but have to admit, it is one heck-of-a tuesday morning … why even you and i are arguing about it.

    thanks for your comments. really appreciate that.

  10. Venkatesh,

    when i start a vlog, and if YouTube decides that they can sell ads for me and make money for me, hell ya I will host it with them. In fact I plan to – as long as there are dollars for me there.

    That’s exactly what Viacom should have done. Take a big cut of the advertising pie.


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