Misplaced Blame All Over The Place For Online Videos

from the blame-Google dept

There’s just something about online video that makes people place the blame in the wrong spot, apparently, and a few stories from the long weekend help to highlight this. First up, we have the producer of a movie suing Google in France over the fact that his movie was available on Google Video. Just like previous lawsuits of this nature, it’s entirely misplaced. The guy shouldn’t be suing Google, but whoever uploaded the video. It’s like suing Sony because someone used a Sony camcorder to videotape a movie. Even worse, the guy is claiming that each view of the movie is equal to a lost sale, which is obviously false. He even admits that Google took down the movie as soon as they were alerted that it was up on the site, which would protect them in the US — but it’s not clear how it will play in France.

Meanwhile, the situation in Italy is perhaps even more ridiculous. There, officials are investigating Google employees because of an uploaded video that showed some students taunting an autistic classmate. Yes, once again, this has absolutely nothing to do with Google, and it’s ridiculous to think that anyone at Google should be responsible for what some users did with Google’s tool. However, that’s not the way they’re viewing it in Italy — where the country’s Education Minister says that Google needs to be treated the same as a newspaper or broadcaster, or there would be a double standard. That would make sense if Google video actually was a system where editors actively requested articles and decided what content was published — but they don’t. They’re just a platform for hosting and viewing the content. It’s more like blaming Samsung for making the TV that someone watched some offending content on.

And, speaking of children taunting others in online videos, up in Canada we have a story of students getting suspended for a video they shot and uploaded of one of their teachers having an angry outburst at one of the students. At least this time it isn’t Google/YouTube being blamed. This sounds quite like a case from a year and a half ago where students were also suspended for recording an angry teacher’s outburst and putting the video online. In this latest case, apparently the students purposely provoked the teacher to get the angry outburst, and they deserve to be punished for that kind of provoking — but the report of the incident focuses almost entirely on the “problem” of cameraphones in the classroom, rather than a teacher losing his cool (no matter how much he was provoked). They make it sound as if the outburst would be perfectly fine if there weren’t any cameras around: “The teacher will be the master of his class — a closed class and confidential.”

It’s understandable that some people don’t understand the technology at play and immediately leap to the wrong conclusions about who is to blame in these situations, but there have been enough of these types of cases already that you would think someone should come along and explain how everything works so that the proper parties are blamed, rather than blaming the technology.

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Comments on “Misplaced Blame All Over The Place For Online Videos”

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Michael says:

Tool makers are to blame...

I wish you argument held in all circumstances, but it doesn’t. With your argument you could say cigarette companies should not be blamed for making cigarettes and for second-hand smoke since it is the people smoking that make the choice. Or gun makers shouldn’t be blamed for manufacturing semi-automatics that gangs use in drive-bys because they just make them, they don’t track who uses them.

I wish the internet was used to better the world, but people do take advantage of the tools that are provided – and they always will. There needs to be a checks and balance on such tools. Artists make their living from movies and music that are stolen online. We need to protect these people too.

yo momma says:

Re: Tool makers are to blame...

Uh, yeah. Cigarette makers shouldn’t be blamed. People are making the choice. Should we sue Arrowhead Water when someone drowns?

And the gun maker thing is even more comical. It isn’t as though a gang member has purchased a gun from a registered firearms dealer. Perhaps the police should do a better job of tracking down stolen property?

Tony says:

Re: Tool makers are to blame...

So With this thinking, so tehn should Stanely be blamed for when a person takes an ax of there and kill a person?? please explane how this work?? isn’t the person responable for there actions, because if makers where liable for everything people did with there products then they wouldn’t make anything.. too many lawsuits, from idots who use them wrong..

Yo Daddy says:

Re: Re: Tool makers are to blame...

The original aricle states that the film company feels that Google “not acted as a simple host but as a fully responsible publisher.” With this line of thinking, legal action is justified.

Here is the bigger question; Should internet companies that post submitted material screen that material to make sure that it is legal to broadcast? Lets change the scenario to Google posting a submitted video of some disgustingly illegal act. Are they to be held responsible for putting that out on the net?

Sean says:

Re: Tool makers are to blame...

Tobacco companies held to that maxim (and it worked) until their research was leaked showing they were aware of the effects of their product, and that they peddled their products to children. This doesn’t support your argument as tobacco companies were not blamed for the way their products were used. They were blamed for what they knew.

Gunmakers have not been found liable in a court of law for acts of violence committed with their products. Are you suggesting they have, or that they should be? In my mind, this is a discussion about what is appropriate jurispredunce, and what is misplaced blame. Until gunmakers are found guilty, this point cannot support your argument.

The following is not directed at you, but at the cases highlighted in the article. I believe people suffer from an acute lack of critical thinking, and instead substitute emotional pleas to make their point.

This, and many other problems in the world, could be solved through better educational content, and better delivery of that content. Both are equally important. Poor content brings suspicion of motive. Poor delivery closes minds. Of course, this is MUCH easier said than done.

Not Micheal says:

Tool makers are to blame...

Firearms are a tool, nothing more, nothing less. It’s the use that the tool is put to that makes the difference. Now, if the firearm manufacturer was putting some sort of addictive chemical in to the grip of a firearm to make you do stupid and irresponsibile stuff, sure, they should shoulder the responsibility. If some two-bit gangster wannabe is doing something stupid and irresponsible, it falls on the stupid and irresponsible person to own up to their own actions.

How about we do something entirely new and different and take responsibility for what we do?

StuCop says:

Re: Tool makers are to blame...

“Firearms are a tool, nothing more, nothing less.”

That’s rather simplistic…but firearms are a tool for what purpose..killing and wounding others…the express purpose of a firearm is the inflict harm and the manufacturers know that and therefore should be liable for their product. On the other hand the hammer manufacturer is not liable if their product is used to harm someone…why…because the express purpose for a hammer is to drive nails…not to bash someones skull…now if a hammer manufacturer marketed a hammer as the skull-crusher 3000 then that would be a different story. Googles express purpose for their online video’s is not to share copyrighted or obscene material…in fact that is expressly prohibited by google…but rather to share video that an individual has full rights to or are in the public domain…so google should not be liable for a user posting a copyrighted or obscene video…

Anonymous Coward says:

The only thing I disagree with is the third case involving the students taunting a teacher who ends up going ballistic. There’s no doubt that the teacher should have kept his cool, but it does bring into question: Would those students have provoked the outburst if they didn’t have the cameraphones to record it? They might have, but it would have been less likely. I have no problem with schools banning cameraphones in classrooms.

As for Google being sued, right or wrong, it was inevitable. Cigarette companies, gun manufacturers and fast food restaurants have all been sued for making products that were abused. This is a similar situation, I think.

Unknowledgeable Geek says:

But ....

With regards to all of these arguments, some valid, some dumb there is a simple answer.

Guns where mentioned, don’t you need a background check? (For handguns at least) Don’t you need to register them.

Cigarettes, there are choices, many non-smoking sections. Sh**, I use to smoke I quit, because you can’t smoke anywhere anymore.

Websites, I don’t understand why stuff doesn’t get screened. Why don’t you upload the video to googles website, then someone from google clicks a button that says that this video is available to be shared. This would create a little more overhead, but I am sure it would be damn near cost effective (because a legal idiots). And if it wasn’t cost effective, it would be a good faith effort. At the same time it would create more jobs and increase the overall economic good, rather than decrease it which is what these lawyers love to do.

Brad says:

Re: But ....

The reason why they don’t filter the results is very simple. It is impractical, nay impossible, for someone to do. Sure, it’d be easy for episodes of popular TV shows, but do you expect some grunt to know what every move, clip, scene, and copyrighted work is?

The real problem with your solution (having someone approve every post) is that once someone clicks the “OK to post” button, they’re taking responsibility. With a completely open system, Google can say “As soon as we were informed, we took it down” and not “Yeah, Frank the Intern clicked ‘OK’ when it should have been ‘Ban’ – our bad”

Also, US Copyright law allows for an unintentional infraction to be withdrawn without penalty. Once someone officially “approves” the file, it is no longer an unintentional infraction.

Chronno S. Trigger says:


your looking at the wrong thing here. Those people that make guns, tobacco, and alcohol are producing them. they know whats in them. Google isn’t producing the videos there just letting people upload there own. In the agreement it says not to upload copyrighted material. Google can not check every upload against every possible thing that could be out there. If they were you would see the downfall of every video hosting site out there.

I’d have to say Sony’s PSP would be a better analogy to this. Someone sues Sony because someone else put a copyrighted video on there PSP.

and I don’t think that the manufacturers of guns are responsible for what a few stupid people do with them.

rstr5105 says:

well now....

Alright, this is yet again (As the OA states) A serious misplacement of blame.

Also as many many articles here on techdirt mention, this is FREE ADVERT. for the film company.

Here’s the idea, I see a film on Google Video. Chances are the quality is poor, suffering from severe pixelization. Yeah, I enjoy the content and plot, BUT not the quality.

What do I do? I go to the cinema/blockbuster/electronics dept @ wal mart and see/rent/buy the very film I just saw online.

Everyone wins with that. I get the full quality film, no pixelization etc etc, film company turns a profit. Sounds to me like the companies need to go find another tree to sit and cry under, ’cause I ain’t coming down.

StratDad says:

Here is the difference

If you want to see the ralationship between Google and a gun manufacturer, think of it this way. If the gun manufactuer got a cut from every crime that was committed using the gun, then they would be in the same business as Google: generating revenue thru the output of the tools.

Google’s income is based on this content. That makes them liable for the content they display. If Google was free of advertising, and the money trail generated by content completly bypassed them, then I think they would be free of responsibility.

“…there have been enough of these types of cases already that you would think someone should come along and explain how everything works ”

The tools should conform to society’s needs, not the other way around. In France, they may respond by saying “…you would think someone should come along and explain how money flows”

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Here is the difference

Google’s income is based on this content. That makes them liable for the content they display.

No, it does not. At least not according to the law.

If Google was free of advertising, and the money trail generated by content completly bypassed them, then I think they would be free of responsibility.

I do not believe there is any advertising on Google video right now, so that pretty much wipes out that issue.

The tools should conform to society’s needs, not the other way around. In France, they may respond by saying “…you would think someone should come along and explain how money flows”

Uh. What? The tools are simply tools. They shouldn’t have to do anything. People use the tools however they want. The economics (“money flow”) issue is entirely separate.

StratDad says:

Re: Re: Here is the difference


It may be that there is no advertising revenue on some of these sites, but as you frequently point out, there are many ways for the web site operator monetize content. I made a poor assumption in that this was monetized thru advertising. However, it shouldn’t be much of an assumption to state that Google is profit motivated, and these content tools support their strategy for maximizing profit. If I back off to this assumption, my position still holds.

I know the law here in the US protects Google in our courts, but that protection ends where our borders end. France, Iran, China, all have their own laws. Their governments are free to interpret the situation with their own perspective. Unless we buy into the Internet as a revolutionary tool, which I do not, then we have to respect each nation’s laws. Perhaps there is a French law protecting Google, but that wasn’t apparent from reading your post.

Tools are used by the web companies to generate content. What they have done is create a reward system where the individual has incentive to apply labor and creativity, but at the same time, their output is corporately useful. Personal reward and opportunity is the wage paid to the creator/laborer. The tools are the company’s means of production, and they are established by the corporation in order to generate revenue.

I think of it just like paying a seamstress on a quota system, except the wage is based on barter rather than cash. The end customer holds the distributor responsible for product quality, not the contracted seamstress. The customer feedback system passes thru the distributor back to the seamstress.

How would you view means of production differently in this situation? We agree on the economics of abundance, so I know we have common ground in economic theory.

Stu says:

“express purpose of a firearm is the inflict harm”

I keep guns to prevent someone from inflicting harm – on me. (let’s not get into side arguments about this one)

I also like to shoot at targets.

Some people shoot creatures that they eat for food.

All legitimate uses of this tool that have nothing to do with murdering or robbing people.

Leave my guns alone – and while you’re at it lay off Google.

|3331373|3|_||3 says:

Google would be better off letting any monkey/AOLer/n00b post whatever they like, then tkaing it down when someone complains, and when someone sues, just let them observe how much money Google has compared to even the RIAA/MPAA (they might be ahead on money, but it would hurt the *AAs). This is obvious, sine if they thought they would be better off by screening the video manually (which would cost a fortune), then they would do so. mDo you realise how many thousands of hours of film are uploaded, and if they are checking for obsenity, they would have to actually watch the first 1/2 or so, since ppl would just start putting inocuous beginnings ontofiles.

My old school recently sent round an e-mail threatening to punish any student who published anything about the school on the net, even if done in thier own time, at home, caliming copyright and trademark restrictions on such things as the school buildings (which could not be copyrightted, and the name, which would not apply, since the email was complianing about the students posting flames about the school (not that tehy admitted that). A friend sent the appropriate member of staff (a certain Danny Deptula) an email in reply expalinging that the could not do this, since no part of the college rules cover this. This shows that in just one person, you can get a compolete misunderstanding of IP law, the rules which he is primarily responsible for enforcing, and simpole commonsense about his ability to catch students. (indeed, i am aware of a friend who has planned to post, everywhere it is vaugely apporopriate, a comment about either the name of my old school or such a line as “an idea worthey of Deptula” about stupidity.)

You get idiots everywher, fortunately, I have never been hit too hard by them

StratDad says:

Re: by this logic

Wrenches are a different situation, because Sears does not profit from the use of the wrench. They don’t care if the wrench sits in the bottom of a tool box for 30 years, or is used every day in an auto shop. Google, on the other hand, depends on people to use their tool in order to generate fresh interest in Google’s web site.

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