Google this: Viacom + $1 Billion + Copyright + YouTube

March 14, 2007

Can GooTube claim Safe-Harbor? Does anybody really care? Well, Viacom certainly cares and so does every other content owner in the galaxy. They should. They own the content. True, content is created to be watched. But it is also created to make money. The better the content, the more money the content creator makes. It is a simple business model that works. Suffice it to say it gets a little more complex as the content goes from creation to consumption with various stakeholders along the way, but it works. You watch a show and everyone on the path back to the shows creator takes a cut. They all earned it.  

Intentional or not, the YouTube upload, share, search and deliver phenomenon changes all that. Now anyone can go to the web and watch just about anything they want. Powerful search connects us to the very content we seek, no matter how obscure our tastes might be at the moment. This is perhaps a good thing…unless you are a content owner. Don’t get me wrong, I think YouTube is great. It has a place. Its simplicity and success are beyond even trying to fathom. Still, runaway success or not, they shouldn’t profit on the backs of others.

Someday soon, business schools throughout the world will teach the value of first-mover advantage and they will refer to YouTube. While it has had to scale to handle the sheer volume of users and content (an extraordinary feat in and of itself), at its core is the equivalent of a couple of seasoned developers setting up a lemonade stand. Yet, it works. In spite of its simplicity, YouTube has perhaps an insurmountable lead. The only question is, what impact will lawsuits such as the Viacom $1 billion suit filed yesterday have on them?

At the heart of the safe-harbor question is who is liable? Is it the consumer who captures the content and then submits it to YouTube or is it YouTube for making it so easy for the consumer to do? I’m not sure. I am not a lawyer. I pay lawyers. Still, safe-harbor or not, both the consumer and YouTube are probably at fault. Why would a viewer upload CSI: Miami unless they wanted others to watch it? Why would YouTube make it easy to upload anything unless they intended to profit from the masses which might search, find and consume the uploaded content? At the end of the day, GooTube is profiting off BOTH the person who uploads the content AND the content owner. In real estate, I think they call that double-dipping. Although, in real estate, I am pretty sure it is legal…