The Annotated Version Of Viacom's Employees Begging The Gov't To Censor The Internet To Save SpongeBob

from the nicely-done dept

We recently wrote about an unintentionally hilarious video from a bunch of Viacom employees, begging the government to censor the internet, or warning that SpongeBob might not exist any more. The whole thing was full of bogus moral panics, misunderstandings of technology and business models, and really cringe-worthy begging to have the government protect their jobs because their own execs are unwilling to adapt to a changing market. And, oh yeah, their CEO made $84.5 million last year. Either way, Lauren Weinstein took the video and decided to annotate the whole thing pointing out that their own inability to adapt — and their own management failures — are no excuse for then trying to undermine the legal and technology framework of the entire internet. Thank goodness YouTube is still legal, so we can do this (no thanks to Viacom, who is still suing YouTube, claiming its responsible for copyright infringement on the site):

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Companies: viacom

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Comments on “The Annotated Version Of Viacom's Employees Begging The Gov't To Censor The Internet To Save SpongeBob”

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vegetaman (profile) says:

Not endorsing piracy...

I am not endorsing piracy — this is just an observation — but I sure as hell don’t see the MTV Video Music Awards available as a DVD on the internet. Is there actually a LEGAL means to see it, short of having managed to DVR or tape it when it aired?

Something about not serving your (would be) customers springs to mind, since apparently they think people want to keep watching it…

Full disclosure: This information was gleaned as per a twenty second Google search, which is time out of my life that I’ll never get back.

Cynyr (profile) says:

Re: Not endorsing piracy...

there are lots of things like this. Either DVR it(while paying for cable) or never see it legally (even if you would like to pay for it).

Most sporting events, some non prime time TV series. Or the DVDs are so far out of wack cost wise, usually after several years they get back down to a price where it would be cheaper t by the dvd vs pay for cable and catch the re-runs.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Not endorsing piracy...

Also the 200 million times that the Daily Show and the Colbert Report was watched illegally… (also that number seems quite high, I doubt that 200 million people know about those shows, I guess, since they’re pretty much 4-weekly, that they counted all downloads over a year or something.)

But how many of those were from other countries where Viacom is blocking people from watching the Daily Show’s own online offerings, thus denying them a legal course?

Swedish Turnip (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not endorsing piracy...

Both shows are on their respective sites the day after they air. The daily show regularly have extended interviews there as well. All good stuff. Sometimes I do watch it from other sources though because the quality on their sites is kinda iffy and the player used is kinda crap.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Problem solved

!!!!!!Intellectual dishonesty alert!!!!!!
That?s because greetards ASS U ME everyone creates for profit.
“there will be no more content” – Yeah OK AC. There will be no more gatekeeprs. Plenty of content done by smaller entities that don?t have to recoup the ?100million? How quickly you forget about RIAA & MPAA math. Its ok though, we know what you get paid to do.

Nigel Lew (profile) says:

Wow did we just get spammed lol…. I just got this in an email…

There’s been a conspicuous absence of cable news coverage of the pending Internet censorship bills. (Likely a function of the media conglomerates’ general support for the legislation.)

Tonight Keith Olbermann’s going to break the silence by hosting Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to talk about his expected filibuster of the the PROTECT IP Act.

He’s expected to be on at about 8:45 Eastern Time, on Current TV. Show starts on the hour and re-run a few times as well. Loads of streams floating around for Current TV if you provider hates al gore or the environment lol..

David Evans (profile) says:

But... But... awwww.

Watched it. Chuckled. It’s just a reverse rant, though. It would have been nice to see some actual facts in there contesting the bullshit being spouted. Like the CEO’s pay, the actual revenue of Spongebob, or the actual availability problems with the ‘MTV Music Awards’.

It’s good. Could have been so much better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But... But... awwww.

People keep bitching about the CEOs pay, which was through a stock options exercise if I am not mistaken. This is basically performance-based incentive pay for executives. If the stock does poorly they receive none if the stock performs well they have a huge winfall.

How does the stocks performance negate the fact that the videos are being pirated and conterfit products are being marketed? Just because you want to watch something doesn’t give you the right to pirate the material. I challenge you to use that defense in a court, the judge would laugh at you.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Re: At 4:57 the annotation should say...

Obviously he’s willing to shut down the Internet and everything that depends on it in order to keep his paycheck.

What he forgets is that in the massive depression that follows, nobody will have enough money to pay for the products his company produces. Guess what happens then?

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

and once again

Copyright infringement, while illegal, is not theft!
And we are against copyright infringement, just not on your terms, VIACOM et al.

Your business is actually growing, while the economy is tanking, and yet you demand more money and more control? You’ve got some nerve!

“Asking nicely” is the same as lying and scamming people out of money with your extortion racket (settlement letters)? Right, when did the word “please” enter in those letters?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: and once again

Has anyone done a comparison of various companies/sectors that are screaming piracy against GDP/Global GDP/anything else?

I ask because I tend to agree with you, but the only numbers I’ve been able to find are for the music industry. There, for the last six years, at least, music industry revenues track US GDP remarkably closely. It doesn’t make the point as strongly as I wish it did, although it does show that the music business is doing just about as badly as the rest of the country.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: and once again

Currently, the music industry is making $67.6 billion dollars this year. The US alone is $26.5 billion.

Movies are currently at $10.11 billion or 10.6 considering your resource. Notice how the numbers for foreign movies is even MORE money based on a weak dollar.

Last I checked, the games industry is predicted to be at $74 billion by the end of next year. But just for 2010, the game industry made $60.4 billion

Now, look at these numbers. Look at the GDP of the US. How the hell is piracy affecting those numbers where a company can’t survive?

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 and once again

To be fair, I’m really paying attention to 2010 for their profits. All of the industries have been doing rather well despite piracy. If I were to pull individuals out of each category, I could show how more movies are being created outside the current studio system, more artists are finding their audience, and games are being made for free on the PC despite piracy.

The entire point is to question how even if piracy were stopped in some way, how much extra money would these studios really make? Somehow, I doubt it would be much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Even without these bills passed, courts have ordered sites to be taken down before those sites have had the opportunity for an adversarial hearing. A hearing is only possible after the fact.

IMO, this is not acceptable and should be resisted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

While I have very very little sympathy for patent and copy’right’ law (given that these laws are just an extension of all of the many many monopolies and cartels that the U.S. government establishes), I can understand the sentiment behind stopping counterfeit goods. If company A sells goods that don’t belong to company B while pretending to be company B, this sort of thing is what trademark ought to protect consumers from. But I just don’t think that this is the right way to do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I guess we need more 20 years of intense piracy to show them that it is not something that is going to go away, unfortunately those industries are also not going away which means that people will continue to monopolize sounds and story telling. I don’t think legends can be formed in that manner if only one person or thing is the one who can tell anything to others that just seems wrong and crazy people today call that “law” LoL WTF is wrong with government and those people employed by big entertainment conglomerates?

It doesn’t really matter though, despite all this, people will still continue to have children and thus continue to have a need to teach them and thus the need to tell stories to them or show something and they will use those stories or “products” legally or illegally to achieve that goal, others as they get older will still find a need to watch things and will find a way to do so and will find legal or illegal alternatives.

Is like Monsanto sending inspectors to community gardens to test them and claiming patent infringement if they find that their seeds contaminated others crops around the world.

This won’t end well, I expect the industry to get harsher and harsher and start to intrude more and more on people’s life at which point a severe backlash will ensue, this happened over and over again and those people didn’t learn from history apparently, the Common’s Revolts in the middle ages where all about these kind of thing and they want it to happen again, then they will try to say that others are in the wrong but the masses will show them otherwise, these people wouldn’t be able to survive inside society without others and want to claim more and more favors from it without giving anything back.

There is a reason why “EXCLUSIVE rights” are named that way, they EXCLUDE others so the price for that “protection” is the exclusion of my own rights at some point that will become unbearable to most people.

Colin (user link) says:

Here’s what I didn’t get the first time I watched this video. The whole thing is “A cyberlocker in Russia was profiting from our work and all we could do was watch!” and “They moved 50,000 units of our product!” and “Our books are in the 99 cent bin!”. Obviously, if this is true, people are buying your products and someone is making money.


Honest question: what am I missing here? Is it just an inability to embrace new technology and methods? Can it really be that simple?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The cyberlocker in Russia is stealing content from others and selling it below market price. They can do that because their production costs are ZERO, whereas Viacom spends millions of dollars each year producing Spongebob.

Again the books in the dollar store are probably copies of Viacom art work – the content theieves paid no money for art production and instead just copied the works for negligible cost.

Colin, what do you do for a living? Do you sell a service or manufacture a product?

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Copyright infringement is not theft. No matter how often you repeat the mantra that people are stealing your content. It’s simply not true.

Look, in what reality does stealing mean that there is more copies of a product than before the act:

You have a pig, I take your pig, you don’t have your pig anymore, because I have it now.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

(I know, bad form replying to ones self)

but that infinitely copyability of those files is also why people view those files as being worth less than physical goods. Ard to your customers it makes no sense to ask more for a product that doesn’t cause you any effort to duplicate. Why would I pay more for a digital file compared to for instance a hard-cover book? You have no storage costs, no printing costs, no paper needed, no ink, no glue, etc and bandwidth is cheap.

And perhaps more importantly, the product can’t get sold out. In 10 years, people could still buy the same product, which means that the saleability of the product is longer than compared to physical products, which can run out.

Anonymous Coward says:

What I feel when I watch those silly ads advocating more protections to people who have nothing but contempt for people who they depend on, is that they should all just drop dead, turn into zombies and have their heads blown off.

Somehow I don’t think that was the kind of emotional response Viacom was looking for though.

Machin Shin says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well the tax payers are the ones paying cops salary. So telling a cop that your the one paying them is true if you are one of the ones who pays taxes.

That out of the way, what does a cop really have to do with his statement? Unless of course you are saying cops have contempt for citizens that are paying their salary.

Point is the entertainment industry needs to learn that people pay for products and services. If you are not willing to deliver the product or service in a way that fits their needs then they will look for alternatives. I am more than happy to buy movies and games. I am not going to go and pay money to get something that is so locked down that I cant use it though.

Anonymous Coward says:

You may knock and mock the people in the video all you want, but the simple fact of the matter is they and many, many others are the collective group who together create entertainment productions for public consumption.

The overlays that some here perhaps find insightful or otherwise contradict what the people in the video are saying are childish and, in my view, quite arrogant.

Frankly, I do not hold in very high regard those outside of these companies who simply misappropriate these productions without having invested a single dollar in their creation. These companies have zero costs of production. The same cannot be said of the original creators. It reminds me of a children’s story about someone asking others to help bake a pie. Of course those others were unwilling to help, but when it came time to eat the pie after baking they were only too willing to take a piece.

If people find nothing unfair about the above, then I have to wonder what such people would find fair. Perhaps if the shoe was on the other foot they might rethink their positions.

Breem says:

Re: Re:

“If people find nothing unfair about the above, then I have to wonder what such people would find fair. Perhaps if the shoe was on the other foot they might rethink their positions.”

I “support” piracy in the sense that I think it should be legal to download but I do not pirate media myself.

I don’t support piracy because I want stuff for free and I don’t think the artists deserve any payment.
My issue currently with copyright holders is the fact that what they sell us comes in unlimited quantities. Once a song is created, it can be copied infinitely at no cost.
Normally, supply and demand dictate the price and I find that current prices of music, games and movies are absolutely unreasonable considering that supply is unlimited.
I think of it this way: I buy music, movies and video games. I don’t buy a specific amount of media, rather I have a fixed budget and I spend all of that budget regardless of how many songs/movies/games it grants me.
Once my budget is spent, there are still songs/movies/games out there that I do not own. To me, this means that media is priced way above its value. If it was priced fairly, I would be able to spend all my yearly budget and still own all the media that has been released that given year.

However, I understand the concerns of the publishers. They might think that if they lowered their prices, I might reduce my budget. I don’t agree but I understand why they would think that way.
Customer and publisher are stuck in a bad position here: In the real world, with physical goods, the manufacturer has a limited number of goods and tries to sell all of them. Customers decide whether to buy or not based on how fair they think the price is. If the price is deemed to high, the manufacturer has proof of that because he is left with unsold merchandise. But in the digital industry, publishers don’t have a limited stock that they must sell. If people cease buying music, movies or games because they don’t like the price, publishers are not left with unsold items as an incentive to lower their prices.
So basically, when it comes to physical merchandise customer and manufacturer come to an agreement: set the price to an amount at which all items sell. Both parties are satisfied that the price is fair. With media, there is no such agreement and both parties feel that the price is unfair.

This is why instead of demanding media for free, I am asking publishers to change their business model. They could choose a model where both they and the customers end up satisfied. I can imagine several new models:

1) Create virtual scarcity.
With this model, publishers would set in advance a number of copies they intend to “produce” and sell for any given album/movie/game, for example: 10,000 copies. Once the publisher has sold 10,000 copies, publication stops forever but file-sharing remains illegal. This way customers have an incentive to pay more money (i.e. they want to buy the album/movie/game before stocks run out) and publishers have leftover stock when their prices are too high.
But publishers won’t do that because they want the best of both worlds: they want to sell digital content as a digital good, with all the advantages digital goods present, but at the same time they want the same advantages that physical goods have. Or in other words, they’re happy to have unlimited supply but when customers point out that goods in infinite supply should be very cheap, publishers don’t like it and try to bend the rules.

2) Another business model is charity.
Let people pay what they feel is fair to pay. It works pretty well when you can convince your customers that you deserve money. Everybody is aware that artists need to eat. A few may not pay even though they could afford it and enjoy the artist’s work but if your work is good you’ll still get enough money from everyone else to make a decent living. You might not become a millionaire because once people see that you are making 100k a year they’ll feel they don’t need to pay you, but then again who said artists are entitled to make millions? Of course convincing people that your work has value and that you need money requires some effort, such as connecting with the fans, showing them how much time it takes you to make music, music or games, and if necessary threatening to stop making the art you do if you feel you really are underpaid. Connecting is also hard to do when you are not an artist but a faceless publisher.

3) Raise money, then release your work/ rely on pre-orders exclusively.
Basically, artists would announce an upcoming album, movie or video game, they would provide samples and trailers, and they would tell people “I will release my new work once I have N number of pre-orders and have made X amount of money”. If you make the money you’ve asked for, release the work – congrats, you created something and have managed to sell it for the value people think it has. If you don’t make all the money you aimed for – you mistakenly believed your work was worth more than it really is, don’t release your work and refund customers who have per-ordered. Sucks to be you, but learn your lesson and next time, lower your profit expectations or make better music/movies/games.
The problem with that model is that if you expect a too high sum of money for the release of your work (say you demand $100k but only get ?3k worth of pre-orders, you don’t get to sell any of it and you make 0 profit. On the other hand if you create the next big hit but aren’t aware of the success it will have, you will end up demanding much less money than you could have made and you miss your chance at becoming a millionaire.

4) Sell derivative products.
Here’s how this works: music, movies, games and other media are distributed freely. Piracy is allowed. You use your work to create a brand, for example a movie or game universe, or make a name for your band. Basically you give your work away for free to gain fame and publicity.
Then you use the popularity of your work to sell T-shirts, figures, mugs, posters, costumes, etc.

There’s a huge market for derivative works: I need to buy clothes and I’d love to buy clothes from my favorite band or video game but when I go to the store they don’t have such clothing. Even specialized or online stores don’t always have a huge selection of movie/game/band specific clothing.

When I buy a new coffee mug in a store, I don’t see mugs with my favorite band on it (again, you need to find stores that specialize into this and even when you do, the selection is not always very good, often you just get a regular design mug with a simple and boring logo of the band on it. Nothing really original).

I’d love to buy a Storm Trooper costume not because I need a costume (well except on Halloween) but because I just love Star Wars that much. Unfortunately they aren’t mass produced, they are instead made by hand by a few people who don’t even seem to be affiliated with the Star Wars franchise, and they cost hundreds.

Another thing you can sell is services, such as concerts.
The demand is out there and is just awaiting to be answered.
This business model in my opinion is the best:
– It solves the piracy problem, turning piracy into marketing. Pirates and publishers are happy.
– The market for what you sell exists, it’s out there and it’s ignored a lot.
– You profits depend on the quality of your original media product: make a good movie and you’ll sell derivative products. Make a crappy movie and nobody will buy your t-shirts. This is fair, and it answers the concern some customers have that when you buy media you take a gamble because you don’t know if you’ll enjoy it.

But of course, there’s one downside: supply for mugs, t-shirts, toys, costumes and figures is not unlimited and you can’t sell stuff higher than its real value or else you’re left with unsold goods.
Oops, I guess I forgot that the media industry is entitled to make not just a profit but millions of dollars.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Customer and publisher are stuck in a bad position here: In the real world, with physical goods, the manufacturer has a limited number of goods and tries to sell all of them. Customers decide whether to buy or not based on how fair they think the price is. If the price is deemed to high, the manufacturer has proof of that because he is left with unsold merchandise. But in the digital industry, publishers don’t have a limited stock that they must sell. If people cease buying music, movies or games because they don’t like the price, publishers are not left with unsold items as an incentive to lower their prices.”

Content creation COSTS MONEY, there are expenditures to create the content, it doesn’t simply manifest itself. Real physcial expenditures, time, and resources are used to create this content. If a publisher doesn’t reach their sales goal they have LOST MONEY. This is no different than with physical goods producers, if they don’t sell x units they lose money and people lose their jobs.

You cannot justify piracy because of your philosophical belief that since something can be copied it has no value. The cost of content production continues to rise as people demand higher quality production and actors, directors, musicians, etc.. demand higher wages.

Your business models are a joke:

1) Content creators lose vast amounts of money on some projects (tens of millions of dollars in many, many cases – think of the really bad movies that never made money and never will make money – Ishtar for example). Ultimately, you are in control of which products you feel contain value. If you don’t think digital content offers you value for your money don’t license it – but you still have no right to illegally download it.

2) This model has failed so often and badly that I will only point out a very recent and very public failing. Panera Bread company tried this model this past summer. Customers were asked to pay what they thought their meal was worth. The company lost money but they learned a valuable lesson – there are portions of the population will take advantage of you if you give them an opportunity.

3) This is exactly the model that has been employeed since at least the Renaissance period through commisioned works. This is not novel or new, but it does require that you establish yourself as an artist before anyone will actually contribute to your work.

4) If someone is going to make money by selling derrivative products why not just sell the damned products and forego the content creation. No one should be forced (due to the pressures of piracy) to create trinkets to raise money for content creation. Just pay people for what they do best – if they are tailors and you like their designs, by their clothes; if they are musicians and you like their music, license their music, etc…

Just because you feel that digital goods are infinite (which is debatable, they could remove the content from the market afterall – and in many instances they will because storage is not infinite), does not mean that there were no costs associated with producing the content.


Re: Re: Re: You got things inverted.

> You cannot justify piracy because of your philosophical belief that since something can be copied it has no value.

It’s not mine. It’s the belief of the people that wrote our Constitution.

No. It’s copyright that has to justify itself and not “piracy”. The founders rightfully understood that any attempt to treat creative works like real property would have many undesirable side effects. That’s why copyright is not elevated to the level of real property, why it is temporary, and why it’s only justification for existence is to further the public good.

Copyright is simply less important than personal liberty.

Beech (profile) says:

Re: Re:

enough, damn it. you just shut your mouth. NO ONE is saying that people who create things shouldnt make money. dont pretend anyone is. the whole point of this video is that EVEN THOUGH IT IS A TRAGEDY copyright is infringed, but destroying the internet isn’t an acceptable solution.

HEY, maybe rape is a tragedy. a solution would be to chemically castrate every male. does that mean that we should outlaw all testicles? or are you pro rape?! WHY DONT YOU THINK ABOUT THE POOR VICTIMS OF RAPE!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“..but destroying the internet isn’t an acceptable solution…”

SOPA/Protect-IP would NOT destroy the internet. It would block TPB. If TPB “is” the internet then I guess your extremist view would hold, but that is most definately NOT the case.

SOPA is NOT CENSORSHIP, no matter how many of Mike’s clones claim that to be the case. Your right to free speach does not include the right to pirate content.


Re: Re: Re: It's worse than that...

SOPA destroys basic fundemental legal protections.

These are things that the Patriot viewed as the “rights of englishmen” at one time. It’s too bad that they have gone out of style in 21st century America.

There are plenty of laws with which to prosecute and persecute pirates and counterfeiters. Big Content just doesn’t want to be bothered with using them.

This “they have been accused, therefore they are guilty” mentality seems to be good enough (for some).

Conscientiouspirate (profile) says:

The 200 million illegal watched Daily Shows confuse me. The show is available on their own website for free. I imagine most people watching it online watch it on their website, because its easier. Some people download it from some evil pirate site, for whatever reason, but what exactly is the harm in that? When the legal alternative is to watch it for free, how much does Viacom lose if someone downloads it?

I’m outside the U.S., and Viacom has partially blocked the Daily Show website for a couple of years. The full episodes were blocked, but the individual segments were available. Even though everything were available, the clicking became tedious fast, and I imagine most of the 200 million downloads are due to annoyed, blocked people. But still, everything was still available for free on their own website, so how much have the illegal downloads cost them?

I noticed the full episodes are no longer blocked here. I assume Viacom made some bad international syndication deals that blocked parallell internet broadcasting, and that those deals now have run out and been replaced with sane deals. If that’s the case, horray!, and I predict far less evil illegal downloads of the show next year.

ScytheNoire (profile) says:

Help End Copyright, Create Millions of Jobs

Viacom CEO made $84.3 million in 2010, twice what he made in 2009. Imagine how many people that could employ (over 2,800). Stop outrageous CEO salaries to help save jobs. Stop allow companies with record high profits to keep lying. Stop lobbying, which is just a form of bribery. Stop using federal agencies as a private industries copyright police. End copyright to help create millions of more jobs and promote creativity.

Griffalo (profile) says:

As an ex-Viacom Employee

I used to work at MTV and can vouch for how terrified and confused they are by the internet. After decades of defining what was cool they’ve been faced with the first wave of 16-24 year olds who spend less time watching TV than the last lot, instead they’re online.

I worked on a channel called MTV: Flux designed to emulate the twin threats of Myspace and Youtube (this was before Facebook was big) – what jars from this video is hearing people talk about how they work to make something and then someone else takes advantage of it and that makes them sad. The terms and conditions on MTV Flux were such that if you uploaded any video content, blog articles or anything else it was immediately the property of Viacom and not yours – they could broadcast it, re-edit it and what-have-you and you had no claim whatsoever to it.

…inevitably the channel lasted all of two years before being dropped entirely because MTV didn’t understand the internet (they even resorted to paying people to post in the forums to keep conversations going) I’d post a link to one of the shows but of course they were all taken down from Youtube!

Griffalo (profile) says:

Re: As an ex-Viacom Employee

…as an addendum I really like the Daily Show and Colbert Report both of which are available to view online in the USA but blocked in the UK. Initially the reason for this was that they were on UK TV channels (More4 and FX) but both shows were axed from their respective channels well over a year ago.

There is now no legitimate way for me to view those shows from the UK as they aren’t available for purchase anywhere. If I were to go and download them I’d be part of Viacom’s statistics about how much money they’re losing despite the fact that I’d happily have given them some money to watch the shows if only they’d give me the option!

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