Dear Viacom: It's In Your Best Interest To Lose The YouTube Lawsuit

from the a-million-tiny-YouTubes... dept

I almost hate to start off with a Star Wars quote, but it's impossible to resist on this story. In the original Star Wars movie, Obi-Wan Kenobi has the infamous line: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." That same message was suggested to the RIAA before it successfully "won" its lawsuit against Napster. But that "win" turned out to be quite the Pyrrhic victory in the end. Rather than killing off unauthorized file sharing, it merely splintered it, into many more systems -- many of which were further underground, making it harder and harder to try to keep track of it, or come up with any real way to embrace it and take advantage of it. And, every time the industry crushes another file sharing service, many more rush in to take up the slack. The end result is that the amount of unauthorized file sharing just continues to increase -- and now the industry is left trying to figure out how it can possibly embrace the mess that it helped create.

The same thing has the potential to happen with Viacom and YouTube. We've already discussed the latest back-and-forth in that lawsuit, but Cord Bloomquist makes a very interesting point: Viacom would probably be better off if it lost. That's because online video won't go away... it will just splinter and move further underground. It won't cut down on videos being available online -- or even how many people are watching those videos (if history is any indication, the opposite will happen). But what it will do, it make it that much more difficult for Viacom to figure out ways to embrace the trend and actually make more money off of it.

I was having some conversations over the weekend with some folks who think that Viacom probably realizes this -- and that it just filed the lawsuit against Google as the first (heavy-handed) step in a "negotiation" to get Google to settle and pay up. What it didn't count on (despite it being discussed widely) was that Google is not only willing to take these cases as far as they go, but it wants to do so, to put in place serious and useful case law to avoid these types of lawsuits in the future. So, the real question then becomes whether or not Viacom really recognizes this, and if it's even possible for the company to back out gracefully.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2008 @ 10:46am

    Wasn't it the Hydra whose head,if cut off, grew two new heads? and continued to multiply for each head which was cut off?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    AC, 3 Jun 2008 @ 10:48am


    Viacom would probably be worse off if it lost.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    JB, 3 Jun 2008 @ 10:49am


    Viacom would probably be worse off if it lost.

    Viacom would probably be worse off if it won.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 3 Jun 2008 @ 10:50am

    Re First AC

    Yup, it was the Hydra.
    However, a hydra could be killed with fire.
    In this case, there is no such greek fire that will do that job, no matter how hard they try.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Matt, 3 Jun 2008 @ 10:52am

    well, it can be killed, but the fire can be put out

    They could just start banning forms of internet access but public outcry would kick the crap out of anyone who tried

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Jakomi Mathews, 3 Jun 2008 @ 11:48am

    Great post and oh so relevant!

    Even if Viacom do win will any of the money actually reach the artist's who's music video content was infringed by Youtube?

    I doubt it, you just need to look at the payouts the labels won against both Napster and Kazza. Not one cent was paid through to the actual artists whose copyright was infringed.

    Check out this article on my blog which goes into a lot more detail: hat-incentive-is-there-to-be-an-artist-anymore/

    Be good to get your thoughts Mike.

    I will be adding hypebot to my blog roll.

    I look forward to reading more of your thought inspiring posts.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Mike (profile), 3 Jun 2008 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Correction

    Yup. Oops. Fixed. Thanks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Jason Phillips (profile), 3 Jun 2008 @ 2:27pm

    If Viacom wins it's going to be downhill from there.

    here's an excerpt from my blog entry at

    Viacom is the point man for the same war that has been going on in the music arena for more than half a decade. The television and movie companies are laboring under the assumption that if Viacom wins this suit that they'll finally be able to gain some ground on all of this digital piracy thing.

    They think that somehow, they have found this problem earlier than the music industry did, and that if they take down YouTube, people will flock to their pitiful little offerings, and the war will be over. Make no mistake, Viacom believes that it can win this suit if it simply changes it argument enough to suit a sitting judge. Once they do, the storm will come. Their ultimate goal is to have the Safe Harbor provisions of the DMCA scrutinized to the point that the offerings from the RIAA and MPAA will be accepted by Congress. The only thing standing in their way are the hugely popular and legitimate companies and business models that have enough money to fight this sort of lawsuit.

    If YouTube looses this it will all start to fall apart. Yes, there will fallout, and yes, there will rise from the ashes of YouTube any number of sites to take their place, but the rolling juggernaut will crush them one by one and leave new, tailored laws in their place. Then once the industry feels it's going fast enough, and is big enough, it will finally begin to change laws through its lobbyists to destroy entire protocols like BitTorrent. Within a decade, the Internet will look like the cable TV of today: Tied up in a wickerwork of regulations and FCC restrictions on use, with dwindling funds for local and amateur access.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Paul (profile), 3 Jun 2008 @ 8:28pm

    Re: If Viacom wins it's going to be downhill from there.

    I highly doubt the internet would get as bad you predict. You still have to remember that the internet isn't only in America. The US has some legislative influence, but its more in the arena of net neutrality type ideas. The laws they pass will only affect companies in the US. If an out-of-country site is popular enough and has a dedicated management staff, it seems it will always find a way to stay around (example: pirate bay).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Nasch, 4 Jun 2008 @ 7:52am

    Re: If Viacom wins it's going to be downhill from there.

    You really think all that is going to happen if Viacom wins this suit? Is this based on Colbert style evidence (ie, gut feeling)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Marvin, 4 Jun 2008 @ 8:55am

    Great article, and Viacom should learn the lessens of history. Youtube will keep expanding and splintering. Just take a look at sites like and you'll see what the future holds for Youtube.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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