Viacom Warns Bloggers: Post Clips Of The Daily Show And We'll Sue [Update: Or Not!]

from the fair-use? dept

Update: A comment from someone at Viacom says that The Hollywood Reporter got this story wrong. He correctly noted that we accidentally called their PR guy a lawyer (fixed), but now says that the quote is not about suing, even though that certainly seems to be the implication from the quote. Perhaps I’m missing something. However, Viacom now says:

We have always tried to be as permissive as possible when looking at what might be fair use, and we haven’t changed our approach at all. Frankly, fair use works for us. I can’t recall a time we’ve ever sued a blogger for the use of a Comedy Central clip, and there’s no reason to believe that would be more likely to today.

That’s an interesting quote from a company suing YouTube for a billion dollars for a lot of fair use clips (including some that Viacom itself uploaded), but ok. We’ll take it at face value. Now, here’s the original post:


Viacom owns Comedy Central and its hit program The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The show makes frequent use of fair use exceptions in copyright to show TV clips from other TV stations as part of the show. But apparently, Viacom and its lawyers think that fair use is only okay for big studios. With the news that Viacom is pulling The Daily Show and The Colbert Report off of Hulu in favor of its own sites, a Viacom lawyer PR guy threatened to sue any bloggers that posted unauthorized clips of the show. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter if it would go after bloggers posting clips, Viacom responded:

“Yes, we intend to do so,” says PR rep Tony Fox. “My feeling is if (websites) are making money on our copyrighted content, then that is a problem.”

Now, it’s true that the video players that each of these shows use on their own official sites do allow for embedding — but they also have limits (and the player is definitely clunky). But, in response to Mr. Fox, isn’t The Daily Show making money off of other’s copyrighted content? Why isn’t that a problem?

It’s really rather disgusting to see big studios like Viacom pretend that fair use only exists when it’s in their favor.

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Comments on “Viacom Warns Bloggers: Post Clips Of The Daily Show And We'll Sue [Update: Or Not!]”

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31 Comments
fogbugzd (profile) says:

Clueless

How many people get turned onto the Daily Show because someone sends them a link to a clip? Quite a few, I would be willing to bet.

A lot of The Daily Show’s appeal is to the young generation. I work with them every day, and that group has very negative reactions to this kind of stupidity and hypocrisy. In addition, a lot of these students don’t even bring TV’s to campus anymore; they rely mostly on services like Hulu.

I like The Daily Show. I am really sorry to hear this announcement that the show will be going off the air. I know know that isn’t actually what the announcement said, but it might have well been included because Viacom announced that it is hurting its own program very badly. The really bad part of this is that they will probably blame the show’s failure on Piracy, not the incompetence of network executives.

Jeremy Zweig says:

Mike – the Hollywood Reporter story, and headline in particular, is completely wrong. Your statement that “a Viacom lawyer threatened to sue any bloggers that posted unauthorized clips of the show” goes even beyond the mistakes in the Hollywood Reporter item. Tony is not a lawyer, and was not quoted about suing bloggers.

We have always tried to be as permissive as possible when looking at what might be fair use, and we haven’t changed our approach at all. Frankly, fair use works for us. I can’t recall a time we’ve ever sued a blogger for the use of a Comedy Central clip, and there’s no reason to believe that would be more likely to today.

Jeremy Zweig
Viacom

Ryan says:

Re: Re:

The ‘lawyer’ misnomer notwithstanding, do you deny that Tony Fox speaks for Viacom – the whole point of a ‘PR rep’? Or are you explicitly stating that Fox is mistaken is saying that Viacom will “target websites and bloggers who post unauthorized clips from the show” and you have corrected his misunderstanding?

We have always tried to be as permissive as possible when looking at what might be fair use

Is that why Viacom has, for instance, sent probably thousands of take-down notices to YouTube for obvious fair use clips, not to mention suing Google for a billion dollars?

If you could clarify these apparent inconsistencies, we’d appreciate it.

Jeremy Zweig says:

Re: Re: Re:

To 9 and 10:

Yes, it’s out of context. Check out the quotes in the story. They are brief, and don’t specifically talk about litigation at all. #10, you’ve actually misquoted the quote.

To the extent that a site would simply replicate our content published on Hulu or dailyshow.com, and sell ads against it, it would be high on our list of “targets” for enforcement. *That* was the context of Tony’s commentary, and that’s not new for us.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

To the extent that a site would simply replicate our content published on Hulu or dailyshow.com, and sell ads against it, it would be high on our list of “targets” for enforcement. *That* was the context of Tony’s commentary, and that’s not new for us.

Ok. But you sell ads against the clips you use in The Daily Show, right?

And, please explain “enforcement.” That certainly *implies* suing in my book, but perhaps you mean something different?

Jeremy Zweig says:

Re: Re: Re:

Mike – I think the last paragraph of post #19 speaks to your question. Also, keep in mind that litigation is generally the last option we like to consider. In some cases, we’ve been able to work with sites that are truly infringing and help them get to the right side of the law without suing.

R. Miles (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“In some cases, we’ve been able to work with sites that are truly infringing and help them get to the right side of the law without suing.”
These are owners of those sites who don’t subscribe to cable, right? Because the way I see it, those who subscribe to cable paid for their content, especially now that Viacom’s blackm, er, forced demand of more money for its stations has been agreed on.

Seriously, do you people even have a damn clue what you’re doing, Jeremy? Just how many times does Viacom feel it needs to get paid for a *SINGLE* episode?

Never mind. I don’t want the answer. It won’t be the correct one anyway.

Brooks (profile) says:

Woohoo!

Maybe if they work really, really hard… they can stop the viral promotion of their show and its constant discovery by new viewers.

For an encore, maybe they could get the show pulled from cable, too. Wow, that would really be exercising some control over their intellectual property!

Anyone want to go in with me on a mutual fund that focuses on shorting companies that let lawyers make marketing and/or strategic business decisions?

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Woohoo!

I am already short on a lot of media companies. I am going long when ACTA and the UKs digital economy bill get signed for the small rise, and then short again as it does nothing to stop the problem of copyright infringement. Whats neat is we have a couple years to make money on the short side as the individual sectors music, news papers, books, video all cave in and implode. Since this is a staggered collapse, each sector will fail at a different time.

You should also look at the secondary industries that will be affected by the signings of ACTA and the UK’s DEB.

GeneralEmergency (profile) says:

The problem with Lawyers is...

..is that they lack that “Boy am I an ASS and Do I look stupid or what?” gene, therefore never experiencing the normal emotion of embarrassment and self-revulsion that us common folk who have never been admitted to the Bar feel when we do REALLY hypocritical things like this Viacom Lawyer/Weasel/MediaPimp has done.

And BTW…The only people who watch John Stuart are teenagers and those who have never functionally matured beyond that level.

Andrew says:

They are just pushing more and more people to use totally free download services. And making it about fair use. If this had to go to court for me downloading free i would feel confident “with a fair trial” that it would be thrown out as fair use.They really need to employ people with higher IQ levels in the movie/tv/recording industry.

Worldborg says:

The Truth

I personally feel like they should promote anyone and everyone using the clips and spread the word. John Stewart and Steven Colbert are the only sources of news with an ounce of truth or dignity anymore. They are exposing the truth about other organizations and how they are nothing more then propaganda machines for the right wing agenda. If more people see John and Steven then more people will realize the truth about whats going on.
I do agree that if someone attempts to make money using the clips they should get their ass sued. This is way more important then money. We need to spread the word, organize, get together and turn this train around or things will get worse, and if you are poor already worse is going to be really bad.

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