I’ve been watching with great interest how YouTube handles accusations that it knowingly hosts and broadcasts copyrighted material. It now seems that Google, which acquired YouTube in November of 2006, is close to releasing technology that will help eliminate video uploads which violate intellectual property laws. Claim Your Content is Google’s name for filtering technology that will give content providers and publishers an easy way to alert YouTube that copyrighted material has been uploaded to its site.
But is a major showdown brewing? This March, Viacom sued Google and YouTube for $1 billion citing massive and intentional copyright infringement. Will this case ever go to court? Google has begun making revenue sharing deals with its major content contributors. If Google and Viacom can agree on revenue sharing terms then Viacom’s copyright infringment suit probably never goes to trial.
I don’t think there’s any question that YouTube built its vast community, and its brand, while knowingly broadcasting copyrighted material. Now, under Google’s dominion, the site is rapidly making attempts to satisfy copyright regulations.
Going forward with revenue sharing seems like the smartest way out of the copyright problem. However, will major media companies like Viacom seek compensation for past broadcasting of their content – broadcasting which made YouTube one of the top destinations on the Internet and that led Google to purchase the company for 1 billion dollars?
By October of 2006, before Google acquired it, an estimated 90 percent of the more than 100 million videos watched daily on YouTube violated copyright laws, according to Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research.
I’m sure Google/YouTube will work out revenue sharing with its major content providers going forward. The questions to me are:
- Will they compensate (or be forced, through the courts, to compensate) for that initial decision to broadcast copyrighted material in the first place?
- How will they compensate for that initial decision to broadcast copyrighted material?
- Can you create a business that essentially gives everyone else’s products away, and then sell it to a megacorp for $1 billion, and not pay some legal penalty?
Follow Up: This article from the Washington Post, published on March 24, 2007 Our Case Against YouTube outlines Viacom’s case against YouTube. It was written by Michael Fricklas, general council for Viacom.