Viacom Denies Sending Takedown Letter On Colbert Parody

from the wasn't-us! dept

Well, here's an odd one. Following Viacom's massive takedown effort of infringing videos on YouTube, there were quite a few complaints of bad filings on content that wasn't infringing, leading a few people to sue Viacom for violating the DMCA. Thursday morning, the news came out that the EFF and some others had sued Viacom over the takedown of a parody clip that used footage from The Colbert Report. The lawsuit claimed that the content was fair use parody, and Viacom was violating the DMCA in filing the notice. Nothing too surprising there. Where it gets strange is that Viacom then went and looked at the video... and claimed it had no problems with it and said it was unlikely that the takedown notice actually came from Viacom (they fail to explain who else would have sent such a takedown notice).

The folks over at the EFF are finding that difficult to believe. As they point out:
(1) the YouTube page specifically says that the video was removed due to a copyright complaint from Viacom; (2) YouTube's counsel verbally confirmed that the video was removed due to the DMCA takedown from Viacom; and (3) after sending a counter-notice to YouTube, Brave New Films received an email from well-known online copyright enforcer, BayTSP, apologizing for the mistake and asking that any questions be directed to VIACOM@BayTSP.com.
BayTSP, of course, is the company that many entertainment industry companies hire to enforce their copyrights online. While Viacom may be technically correct that they did not send the takedown notice, it seems clear that BayTSP did so, acting as Viacom's agent in the matter. The EFF is calling on Viacom to explain how this happened, and to highlight how important it is not to file such bogus claims, points out: "if Fox got The Daily Show pulled off the air for running a clip from Fox News, Viacom wouldn't be satisfied with an "oops, we didn't mean it" the next day."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 8:04am

    Par the course

    1. Big media company wants content removed.

    2. Rather than go throught trouble of gathering real evidence they just use the "throw every at the wall and see what sticks" stategy or go on a fishing expedition.

    3. Sue the acutal infingers into oblivion and then shift the blame for any mistakes on someone else.


    Makes you wonder why if copyrights are so important they hire an outside company to enforce them. The industry is too busy with other things to bother sending their own takedown notices?

     

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    Overcast, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 8:16am

    Oh, so then... if I download media by proxy - I'm safe too and can declare 'I didn't download that... an agent did'

     

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      Casper, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 8:23am

      Re: by Overcast

      That's what I'm hearing. If I ever want to violate the law, just hire someone to do it for you... wait, I thought that was still illegal? Gee, maybe I missed the memo.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 8:57am

    Aha!

    So in order for a person to kill their spouse they just have to hire someone else to do it?

    I know hiring someone to kill for you is wrong but could someone please tell me why that is wrong but Viacom is somehow not responsible for those takedowns?

     

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    Wisdom Only, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 9:27am

    Google/YouTube is into ripping off everyone's intellectual poperty rights to make money for themselves, it seems.

    It's not fair use, it's wholesale robbery in the eyes of many, and hopefully the courts will back that up bigtime.

    When you have take down oders for over 100,000 infringing clips, it is understandable that a few others got caught in that huge number. If their research had not been so good, it is likely they would have accidently picked up more.

    This issue is very different. Google says they have a right to make money off the intellectual property of others without getting permission, which is simple stealing in the eyes of many. Viacom accidently issued a take-down, then said they were sorry.

    Doesn't anyone see the moral and legal distinction?

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 9:57am

      Re: Wisdom Only

      First: how is Google ripping anything off? they provide a platform and that's it. the users provide the videos. It would be like me posting full pages of the Harry Potter book on here and techdirt getting sued. It has already been determined that a hosting service is not responsible for what it's clients do.

      Second: Viacom isn't apologizing for anything. There saying they didn't do it.

      I know I'm probably one of many that will reply to you but what you said was so full of it that I had to respond.

       

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      Casper, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 10:08am

      Re: by Wisdom Only

      What are you talking about? How is Google/YouTube, running a user driven website, ripping peoples intellectual property off when a user posts it? Your argument is hollow and lacking any real substance to support your stance.

      While I can agree that posting copyright material directly and not for the purposes of supporting a greater material is copyright infringement, the satirical posting that this post is discussing is obviously immune. This is a clear cut case, which is why Viacom is back peddling and trying to pull out of it.

      Now, from what your saying, it is acceptable to directly abuse a law as long as you are correct most of the time? So if I just sentence everyone as guilty in a court room and have a 90% success ratio (they are guilty), the other 10% are just collateral damage? No company has any greater rights then an individual. If you make a mistake, you are liable. Also, the medium can not be blamed for the fact that the user was not educated on copyright laws (which are so vague even the lawyers are not sure how to use them). Do you really think most of the people posting clips knew it was direct copyright violation?

      If your name was true, you would have had the "wisdom" to think through your stance from both sides before throwing it out randomly.

       

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      Paul, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 10:13am

      Re:

      Google and YouTube aren't into ripping anybody off. They provide a service and that is it. Its just a service that you can use OR misuse. They can't be held responsible if somebody uses it to break the law. If you believe that, have fun also lobbying for gun manufacturers being sued for every death caused by a gun. There are millions of videos on YouTube that are completely legal. They aren't soley about copyrighted info and its true that if there is copyrighted stuff found on there, there's protocol to follow to get it removed. Its actually a relatively simple protocol. This protocol was NOT set up by YouTube but by THE GOVERNMENT.

      So... where are they breaking the law? And this "in the eyes of many" that you seem to enjoy using... who are they? Most people disagree with you unless they're greedy and want to get paid over and over again for old work because they're too lazy to do anything new.

      If there's a building with 100,000 terrorists, but there's 5 American hostages in there (lets say one is your mother, but the argument still works even if that weren't the case), would you be all for just bombing the entire place? I mean, its in the name of protection... whats the harm that a few people have their rights denied?

      You can't deny the rights of a few to protect the rights of ONE.

       

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        Casper, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 10:42am

        Re: Re:

        Well, 100,000 terrorists will lead us down matters of national security and such in which people will get way off topic. But I agree with the sentiment.

         

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      ehrichweiss, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 12:29pm

      Re: "Wisdom"

      So if you put up a physical bulletin board(as in the old type where you had paper and thumbtacks) and someone posts a bunch of child porn(or whatever..it only needs to be illegal in some sense), are YOU going to say it was your fault and plead guilty for someone else's actions?

       

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      Wizard Prang, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 12:46pm

      Robbery? What robbery?

      It's not fair use, it's wholesale robbery in the eyes of many

      It is neither fair use (in the strictest legal sense), nor robbery.

      Who are the "many" that you speak of, and how many of them come from outside the content industry?

      How were Viacom "robbed"? If there were a clear case of loss (like posting enough of an entire movie to give the story away), they might have a moral leg to stand on, but I fail to see how posting clips of a movie could result in anything other than free publicity.

      Looks like another case of "It's our stuuuuuufff!" to me. What next? The movie business attacking review sites who post plot details and spoilers?

      Doesn't anyone see the moral and legal distinction?

      Yes. Copyright laws are wrong - they should be about commercial exploitation. Before digital/Internet technology, they were similar enough that copying = copyright violation, but this is no longer the case.

      Unless Google are costing Viacom real money or causing them harm, I see no problem of morality.

      Oh, and there is no such thing as "intellectual property"

       

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    Wisdom Only, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 1:11pm

    More from Wisdom

    Most of the responses make me realize again that ethics in America are dead. Some responses:

    Trigger>> how is Google ripping anything off?

    They are making money off intellectual property that doesn't belong to them.

    Casper>> No company has any greater rights then an individual. If you make a mistake, you are liable. Also, the medium can not be blamed for the fact that the user was not educated on copyright laws (which are so vague even the lawyers are not sure how to use them). Do you really think most of the people posting clips knew it was direct copyright violation?

    This is all goofy talk. If by "company" you mean "corporations," they do have special rights in many areas. That's why people form them. It is not true that a mistake means that someone is liable. Sometimes it's just a mistake. In law, there is a thing called "de minimis" which is a legal action too small to be taken seriously. 1 bad take-down notice out 100,000 could fall under this category. Finally, ignorance of the law has never been a defense. Everyone would claim that if they could, even murderers.

    Paul>> Google and YouTube aren't into ripping anybody off. They provide a service and that is it. Its just a service that you can use OR misuse. They can't be held responsible if somebody uses it to break the law.

    Well, this is your opinion, but also why Google should be sued. Let's see what the courts say. A thief steals something, then sells it to a "fence" who makes money off it. When they arrest the fence he says, "I didn't sell it. In fact I told the crook I don't buy stolen stuff." But the fence still goes to jail because he is a criminal too.

    The law is currently giving a free pass to ISPs who take on board infringing material by use of take-down letters. but if somone is making a business out "fencing" the material, as is perhaps the case with Google, then they need to be sued so they don't do it anymore.

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 1:46pm

      Re: More from Wisdom

      "They are making money off intellectual property that doesn't belong to them."

      Technically everything that is put on youTube is intellectual property. Remember that law that automatically protects anything created by an artist? Google is making a profit off of a service to allow those creators to bring those creations into the public eye. It's not Google/youtubs fault that someone is using this platform for displaying copyrighted material. If you're going to blame someone, blame the person that posted the item in question.

      Don't blame TechDirt if I post the entire Harry Potter Book

      Don't blame yourself for the a$$ posting child porn on your cork board

      Don't blame the road worker for the Mustang speeding.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 3:16pm

      Re: More from Wisdom

      "They are making money off intellectual property that doesn't belong to them."

      Strictly speaking, they are not making any money off the content posted. Your logic is flawed. They provide a medium and make money off contracts and advertising.

      "Sometimes it's just a mistake. In law, there is a thing called "de minimis" which is a legal action too small to be taken seriously. 1 bad take-down notice out 100,000 could fall under this category."

      Sorry, but that doesn't work as an argument. You are attempting to mitigate the value of the individual. De minimis would only work if it were 1 company targeting 1 company and all 100,000 were directed at them, and 3 were found to be incorrect. This on the other hand, is 1 take down sent to 1 person. It is the sole basis of the suit and can not be minimized.

      "Well, this is your opinion, but also why Google should be sued. Let's see what the courts say. A thief steals something, then sells it to a "fence" who makes money off it. When they arrest the fence he says, "I didn't sell it. In fact I told the crook I don't buy stolen stuff." But the fence still goes to jail because he is a criminal too."

      Copyright violation can not be directly compared to theft no matter how much you wish you could. Copyright in an infringement on their ownership of the concept of the product, not the product it's self. In this sense, since it is not YouTube posting the video and YouTube is not "selling" the video, they can not be sued for it. In fact, that's not even what the lawsuit is alleging. If you actually read the lawsuit you would see that they are being sued for "not adequately preventing" the posting of the videos. Since there is no definition of a minimum requirement, and the medium is not at fault for content posted, there really isn't a case.

      I'm sorry that you disagree, but you really should do some research before posting. A prime example is your last paragraph, where you ignore all current laws and previous rulings to make a judgment based off your own narrow opinion. YouTube is simply providing a medium and is in no way encouraging copyrighted material. They have complied with every take down notice, and have in no way violated any laws. This is why they are NOT being sued for violating a law, and are instead being sued for not adequately preventing it.... which is a random attempt to tie them up while they have a chance to get into the online video market. This is not a righteous crusade for content, this is a planned marketing move to try to make room for their own products launch.

       

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        Casper, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 3:21pm

        Re: Re: More from Wisdom

        Forgot to sign that, but I actually didn't get a chance to finish my thought before I had to post.

         

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        Wisdom Only, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 8:34pm

        Re: Re: More from Wisdom

        None of your points are strong or reasoned, just contrarian. The one exception:

        >>> YouTube is simply providing a medium and is in no way encouraging copyrighted material.

        That, of course, is the question and will be settled in court.

        I'm rooting for the guys who risked millions to create the intellectual property, not those who are profiting just by putting it in their filing system.

        Not only Viacom, but also the Publisher's Assn who are going after Google for something similar... publishing copies of work in a way detrimental to the economic value of the work.

        I predict that when the dust settles in a few years, Google will have to pay royalties for intellectual property they use (the satndard way of doing business), and will not get a free ride like they are now.

         

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      Robert, Mar 23rd, 2007 @ 8:38pm

      Re: More from Wisdom

      Google makes money of people who post videos to there site? Wow I didn't know business made money. People post the intellectual property not google. Hell even if they put on all these filters that viacom and others want they WILL NOT WORK. Duh I mean I can name a file anything I want how is google going to know what is on it unless they look at all the videos first and if they did that they would quickly go out of business and if you say they should do that then Viacom should look at every single DCMA they send out. EVERY ONE.

       

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    MrWizard, Mar 24th, 2007 @ 9:38am

    Hole on a second...

    I just went back and re-read the article and something occurred to me.
    I was under the impression that under the law, only copywright owners were allowed to issue take-down notices.
    If that is true, why is BayTSP sending these take-downs? Also, wouldn't BayTSP be guilty of some kind of fraud charge?
    Note that I'm not a lawyer. I'm just asking the question.

     

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      RogerDodger, Mar 25th, 2007 @ 9:04am

      Re: Hole on a second...

      No mystery here, Mr. Wizard. It is common knowledge that BayTSP is acting as agent for Viacom.

      BayTSP is doing it for pay, as they have been hired by Via to do. Outsourcing.

      No hint of fraud, just a standard way of doing business.

      PS... Ford doesn't make all their car parts either. They outsource them to other companies and just bolt them together. Same with Viacom and virtually all other companies.

      You didn't know this???

       

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    Not a Lawyer, Mar 26th, 2007 @ 8:34am

    To: More from Wisdom

    Just curious: How, specifically, is Google profiting from videos posted by users who are using Google/YouTube's services?

     

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    Not a Lawyer, Mar 26th, 2007 @ 8:48am

    To: More from Wisdom

    Just curious: How, specifically, is Google profiting from videos posted by users who are using Google/YouTube's services?

     

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    deathtothe orcs, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 5:48pm

    go make a stupid movie give it a cool name so people will download it, hire bayts and sue sue sue, you make millions for real.

     

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