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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    BBT, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:14am

    Ah yes, you cannot use fair-use clips of a show that's based entirely around fair-use clips. That's like using a double negative. Fair use of fair use = unfair use, clearly.

     

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

  2.  
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    Jeff, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:17am

    Golum Mentality

    The folks over at Viacom are falling to the power of the ring, err the "hit show"

    They want to be the one and only source of the Daily Show and Colbert. I can hear the execs now going "my precious"

     

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  3.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    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.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:19am

    Viacom is ...

    crap anyway because most of their shows suck horribly
    also I have a personal grudge against them for not releasing malcolm in the middle on dvd.
    music licensing rights my ass
    just do it

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:36am

    Yes, but IP is intended to promote the progress and serve the rights of artists. NOT. It's only intended to give privileges to the rich that no one else gets.

     

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

  6.  
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    Jeremy Zweig, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:40am

    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

     

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  7.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:40am

    Re: Clueless

    "The really bad part of this is that they will probably blame the show's failure on Piracy, not the incompetence of network executives."

    Incompetence seems to be a requirement to be a media executive.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:45am

    Hmm, "The Daily Show making money off of other's copyrighted content? Why isn't that a problem? "

    So there upset others are making money or upset they are not making money?

     

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

  9.  
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    IshmaelDS (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:52am

    Re:

    He may not be a laywer(as stated in the Hollywood Reporter article he is a PR Rep) but are you saying the Hollywood Reporter lied about the quote? Or are you saying they took it out of context? If the latter what was the context that they took it out of?

     

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  10.  
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    Ryan, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:53am

    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.

     

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

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:54am

    The Daily Show has an incredibly strong fair use case due to satire; I doubt the blogs in question can say the same.

     

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

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:57am

    Re:

    Well, if they post some Stephen Colbert clips then all they have to do is state, "Stephen Colbert is fucking retarded!"

    That's satire so it should be all good.

     

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  13.  
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    rafi, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:59am

    a rant i did about viacom on this topic years ago

    http://internetscelebrities.com/if-sharing-scenario-is-wrong-i-dont-want-to-be-copyright/

    Their unfairness on this topic is remarkable.

    As eskay brings up in the comments at the above post, mtv can show our websites or original videos on their network with no problem. But we can't use their clip.

     

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  14.  
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    Brooks (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:59am

    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?

     

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  15.  
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    Chris, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:03am

    Isn't it okay to use 30 second clips of a song/show? Isn't that "fair use"?

    Also, CNN has shown clips from The Daily Show before, where the CNN reports acknowledge that Jon Stewart has said something about them (and Jon, himself, uses CNN clips to make his point).

    I wonder if Viacom will be going after CNN.

     

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  16.  
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    GeneralEmergency (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:07am

    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.

     

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  17.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:12am

    Re:

    Hi Jeremy,

    Ok. I've updated the post. You're right. I thought they quoted a lawyer not a PR person. Sorry about that. However, can you explain what he was referring to in his quote, because it didn't look like he was allowing for fair use?

     

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

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    How about fair use of fair use of fair use :)

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Jeremy Zweig, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:15am

    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.

     

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  20.  
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    Monkeyboy (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    No money

    What if I post the clips on a website that's not making any money? Is that ok?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Andrew, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:20am

    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.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Jeremy Zweig, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 10:51am

    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.

     

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

  23.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 11:02am

    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.

     

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

  24.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 11:29am

    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.

     

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

  25.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 11:33am

    Re: The problem with Lawyers is...

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

    Who the hell is John Stuart? Off-topic comment, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a really funny show if you have a sense of humor.

     

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

  26.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 12:21pm

    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?

     

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

  27.  
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    IshmaelDS (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    So are you saying Jeremy that if I was a news blog and posted a short clip to highlight something i was reporting on you would sue if I had ads on the site? or is it just if I post a short clip that I thought was funny that you would sue?

    (you can replace sue with a C&D or whatever else you want)

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Tom The Toe, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 12:46pm

    Viewing On HULU

    That's how I watch the Daily Show. Pull the plug on HULU and they lose me as a viewer.

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 1:42pm

    trust me no one watchs daily show or colbert anymore

    NOR downloads it
    the very very few that do are retarded anyhow.

    its like napster and metallica
    you download and listen to there stuff after cliff burton died your a noob

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    CrushU, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 2:28pm

    Thank You

    Jeremy, for replying in comments here.

    Whether or not I agree with the statements you make, I appreciate it tremendously when a company participates in the discussion.

    Just thought I'd put that out there.

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    Worldborg, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 9:11pm

    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.

     

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


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