Viacom Once Sued YouTube For A Billion Dollars; Now It's Just Released Over 100 Movies For Free On YouTube

from the funny-how-that-works dept

As you may recall, back in 2007, entertainment giant Viacom sued YouTube for $1 billion, arguing that it was nothing more than a piracy site. Of course, Viacom's case faltered, badly, when it was later revealed that over 100 of the videos it listed as infringing had been... uploaded by Viacom employees as part of a marketing strategy. That act alone showed that even Viacom employees recognized the site had "substantial noninfringing uses." After seven years of battling it out in court, the two sides finally settled last year. However, it does seem noteworthy that Paramount Pictures, the major Hollywood movie studio that is owned by Viacom just announced that it had posted over 100 of its own movies for free on YouTube in their entirety.

This is important for a variety of reasons, but most of all it shows that, once again, when legacy entertainment firms learn how to embrace new technologies, rather than sue them, they're better off. Legacy entertainment companies have basically tried to sue or kill every new technological innovation that somehow challenged new business models. They sued over radio, television, VCRs, cable TV, MP3 players, DVRs and internet video. And yet, once they learned how to use each of those, they realized how great these platforms were in helping to distribute, to promote and to monetize their works.

If Viacom had succeeded in its lawsuits and killed off YouTube, would these movies be available for free online today? I think most people would agree the answer is "no way."

This is a big part of the reason why I get concerned about attempts to shut down businesses that some insist are "nothing but piracy sites." The VCR was "nothing but a piracy tool." The MP3 player was "nothing but a piracy tool." Radio was "nothing but a piracy tool." And YouTube was "nothing but a piracy site." And yet... given the chance to grow and to innovate, these services show that they are successful because they're providing a better product. Suing them out of existence takes away opportunities like this, where companies learn that they can benefit from these (often free!) services to better promote, distribute and monetize their own works. It's easy to think that something that is often used for infringing works in the early days is never going to be anything useful or legitimate, but that ignores the history of innovation in this space. Every new innovation originally looked like a piracy tool. Until it no longer did. Perhaps, rather than trying to kill off every new service, Hollywood should take a lesson and realize that maybe it should be figuring out better ways to embrace them early on, rather than many years later.

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 8:42am

    Re: The difference between Paramount and piracy is that Paramount makes and owns the content, can do what wishes with it.

    By the way, Techdirt's hidden battle to censor me still goes on, invisibly: ten tries to post in prior article, though only four in this.

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