Viacom vs. Google

Tim Goodman in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Copyright_symbol_3Figuring out whom to root for in the battle between Viacom and YouTube is pretty simple, particularly if you own a computer: Turn it on and play. YouTube, with its library of archival television and music clips and its array of user-generated video oddities, is one of the truly great gifts of an invigorated, inventive Internet. That Viacom is suing — for a chilling $1 billion — the former startup now owned by Google is likely to give YouTube devotees the willies. All those cool clips — potentially gone.

And yet, figuring out who is right in this lawsuit is also a no-brainer: Viacom. Is there even a gray area here? YouTube is profiting (or, theoretically could profit) from artistic content that it didn’t create. It’s taking something that was developed by Viacom, namely a number of popular television shows, and offering them free to YouTube users. Call it what you want — say, an infringement on our mindless fun and viewing pleasure — but it’s essentially stealing. Fair use? Uh, no. Stealing.

This knee-jerk reaction, that the Viacom lawsuit is pitting a Goliath against a David, is absurd. Yes, YouTube was a hip and clever little startup that did good for its global village of users, but now it’s a byproduct of a corporate giant, much like Viacom. Is there anything less sexy than a bloody battle for cash between two Goliaths?

As many experts are noting, this lawsuit is a negotiating tool…

More here.