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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 8:39am

    They were just trying to support innovation, Mike - as they always do. What's a lawsuit between friends?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 8:41am

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

    The obvious and primary distinction of ownership seems more than you can ever grasp. Piracy is taking the work of other. Paramount choosing to use Youtube is totally within its right. Pirates have ZERO rights to dispose of anyone else's products.

    The prior Youtube battle by another division is irrelevant.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      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.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:51am

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

        I am part of that ignore squad and don't associate with Techdirt beyond the occasional comment that agrees or disagrees with an article. There isn't a plot from Techdirt to hide, not censor, your quotes. Your paranoia and lack of understanding is misdirected at Techdirt. I click ignore on a majority of your comments. You don't write comments to encourage discussion. You are like a preacher that would spout of scriptures but yells at people when questioned because his way is the only way and everyone else can burn. You don't comment with an open mind, only with an agenda. That is why I will always click ignore on those comments.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 6:27pm

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

          LOL, me too.

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

      • identicon
        RD, 15 Oct 2015 @ 11:22am

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

        Yor willful, intentional and blindingly specious misunderstanding of this site and it's users combined with your outright lied and attempts to derail any useful conversation *IS* the reason you should be "censored" (even though that isn't what is happening to you). But you *should* be.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 8:44am

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

      Kim Dotcom of Megaupload (and why haven't you mentioned the current court fights?) is unequivocally a pirate, making nothing except illegal gains off the work of others. Paramount is a producer.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 8:53am

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

        Paramount does a very good job of keeping the profits to itself, rather than sharing them with the people who actually produce their content, and as such it morals are far worse than Megaupload's were, which had a straightforward and understandable way of sharing its profits with anybody who used it to distribute content, and yes there was a lot of legal content being shared via its services..

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:05am

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

          Hollywood Accounting - LOL

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:07am

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

        Paramount is a producer ... of what - shit?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 8:46am

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

      You still don't get it, YouTube is not a publisher and does not exercise control over what is posted prior to it being posted. Attacking it is a very indirect means of attacking the pirates, and does very little to stop piracy whilst doing much more damage to society by chilling communications between people.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:20am

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

      Viacom didn't sue pirates; it tried to shut down Youtube itself. You're right that using Youtube after suing pirates would be irrelevant, but that's not what happened. It's very much relevant that they tried to shut down the site they are now using.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:52am

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

      The point is precisely that: why would Paramount work with Youtube if it really was a piracy heaven like Viacom painted back in 2007? Why would the industry profit with vhs if it was as they painted back then? The message here is clear, the piracy subterfuge is used to (try to) kill technology and services that can actually provide plenty of legal uses and profit. You are attacking yet another strawman.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:32am

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

        "The point is precisely that: why would Paramount work with Youtube if it really was a piracy heaven like Viacom painted back in 2007?"

        The same can be applied to why would movie studios store there accounts on Megaupload the same Megaupload that they "allege" is a hotbed of piracy that funds terrorism.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 12:14pm

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

      If this website was run by the MAFIAA you defend, your comments would be deleted... No, they wouldn't even be approved.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 8:54am

    "If I want to smash my hand with a hammer and blame you when it hurts that's my right!"

    The relationship between the 'entertainment' industries and tech is along the lines of someone finding a tool, using it to smash their hands, throwing a fit when someone tells them they're doing it wrong, and then acting as though nothing happened when they finally get around to using the item correctly.

    And then doing the Exact. Same. Thing. every time a new tool is presented to them, whining all the while about how the latest tool is clearly only good for smashing hands, and has no other possible use.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:04am

    Pinky finger to mouth ...

    One Billion Dollars

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

  • icon
    ottermaton (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:18am

    77% of the comments go to the troll

    Looks like he's winning. And everyone that replies to him is helping. Good work!

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:54am

      Re: 77% of the comments go to the troll

      Actually, it IS good work. Remember that the solution to wrong speech is MORE speech rather than censorship. Trolls shouldn't be ignored, but dragged out from under the bridge and exposed for the trolls they are. People see both that the trolls are wrong and that they can be defeated through shared understanding instead of violence or unneeded regulation.

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

      • icon
        Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 12:53pm

        Re: Re: 77% of the comments go to the troll

        Trolls shouldn't be ignored, but dragged out from under the bridge and exposed for the trolls they are.
        Great in theory.... in practice (and partly because there's no collapse function), the comment threads become an unreadable wall of spam with troll spouting (usually) off-topic vitriol and others (yes, I'm occasionally guilty too) trying to refute said utter bollocks.

        Usually it's about the equivalent of listening to a fanatical catholic and a fanatical atheist argue about the existence of god when you're trying to watch a documentary about cars. Hence, I suspect, the inevitable ignoring.

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

        • icon
          Gwiz (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 1:28pm

          Re: Re: Re: 77% of the comments go to the troll

          ...and partly because there's no collapse function...

          I'm of the mind that Techdirt should add switch for this in the personal settings with three options:

          1) Hide reported comments - works like it does presently

          2) Collapse reported comments - hides reported comments and all responses to the reported comments

          3) Show all - doesn't hide anything (but does indicate somewhere which comments have reached the hide threshold)

          That way everyone could be happy.

          I actually like it when comment threads go off topic here. It's not very often in real life that one has to limit their conversation to a specific topic when talking amongst their peers, so I just don't see why it's such a issue for some people when threads veer off-topic here.

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

          • icon
            Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 4:39pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 77% of the comments go to the troll

            so I just don't see why it's such a issue for some people when threads veer off-topic here
            Were it off-topic and at least faintly constructive, I suspect it would not be such an issue. Personally, I'd rather have the ability to collapse a whole thread or sub-thread of comments whether because it's random abuse, pointless drivel, or simply a thread of comments I'm not interested in... but one can't, so for the likes of the former, "report" is about the only option.

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

        • icon
          ottermaton (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 2:36pm

          Re: Re: Re: 77% of the comments go to the troll

          Usually it's about the equivalent of listening to a fanatical catholic and a fanatical atheist argue about the existence of god when you're trying to watch a documentary about cars.

          Ha! Way to pull a car analogy out of nowhere! Nice!

          Agree with you 100%

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:24am

    The Vault's Banner

    Did anyone notice that none of the movies illustrated in the Vault's banner (e.g Top Gun, Indiana Jones, etc) are actually in the vault?

    Similarly, the Vault features a video promoting the vault, and none of the movie clips used there (e.g. Titanic, Grease, Transformers, etc) are in the Vault either?

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

  • icon
    radix (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:33am

    Best part

    After browsing some of the titles, and without doing any deep research at all, it looks like a significant percentage of these movies should probably be in the public domain anyway. At the time they were made in the 40's - 60's, before all the extensions, copyright terms were generally capped at around 56 years.

    To be fair, there are some more recent titles available, so that's not a blanket statement, just something I noticed.

    But the cynic in me thinks this may actually be a ploy to get some sort of renewed protection on films that have not been made available in any legal way for decades, so they don't appear to be abandoned.

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:35am

    Radio "was" ...? Is it dead? I don't listen myself anymore, but I thought it was still out there. Even so, I don't think I ever recorded anything off a broadcast. Never actually heard anyone call radio a piracy tool (before now). Meh.

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

    • identicon
      Rich, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:49am

      Re:

      "Was" because that's what it was called when it first came out, thought probably not specifically using the word "piracy." He wasn't implying that radio was gone.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:51am

    "This video is not available."

    Every. Single. Video.

    If that's not a bad PR campaign, I don't know what is.

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

    • identicon
      astroboi, 15 Oct 2015 @ 2:42pm

      Re: Video not available

      They want you to sign in on an awful lot of titles. WTF! If they are up for free just let us watch 'em. Even "The Mountain", a "G-Rated" movie if ever there was one, is classed as too adult for just any old casual viewer to watch. And it can be torrented at 1080 while the official release is a modest 360. Even when these guys give something away they must trash it a bit.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:00am

    To add some perspective, how many vhs', mp3 players, youtubes have this litigious behavior from the MAFIAA killed in the cradle? Or did technology route around that 'censorship' and still delivered us what we'd have in a really free market?

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

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:40am

    The solution is obvious.

    The lawyers representing Viacom counseling suing YouTube should face sanctions for their attempt to abuse the legal system as their gravy train at the expense of their client and society as a whole. Filling their wallets is not why the legal system exists.

    Come on all you lawyers out there. Don't suffer the existence of barratrous weasels in your midst tarring all those practicing your profession with their atrocious conduct. Up your game by deep sixing them to the bottom of the ocean with the other ten thousand!

    For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. It's time the legal profession came up to speed on Newtonian physics.

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:43am

    They're being setup

    Call me a cynic, but I think this is someone's way of setting YouTube up for a fall.
    First, Paramount (a subsidiary of Viacom) uploade the movies. Next, Viacom has one of its "find infringing content" subsidiary company file take-down notices with YouTube. Then Viacom resumes suing YouTube for hosting infringing content.

    And as for the question of whether these movies would be available online if YouTube wasn't around? Of course! The movies would be available on Paramount's site, playable only with their proprietary video player designed to be as hard to use as possible, preferably on systems running Windows ME with IE 7 or Netscape 5.
    The low traffic and viewership numbers would then prove to executives that people don't want to watch movies online.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 11:14am

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

    If I ever see that in a subject line of an email from an unknown sender, you can be sure it's heading to the deleted items with a quickness.

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

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 15 Oct 2015 @ 11:38am

    Not so fast

    They released the movie, but here is the catch, they did not release the audio portion or visual portion of the movies due to copyright protections. But please enjoy the FBI & Homeland security information warning which was allowed to be uploaded

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 1:40pm

    Hi rez or low rez?

    Right now I'm on a crap PC so can't tell the difference. Might Paramount be uploading a low rez version of the movie that looks OK on a PC but looks horrid on a HDTV? So if you want the hi rez version you have to buy it?

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

    • icon
      MrTroy (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:35pm

      Re: Hi rez or low rez?

      What's wrong with that? If the low res version is good enough for you then you don't have to buy it. Same for people complaining that they didn't release the films that you wanted them to - you're complaining that your free cookie is peanut butter when you wanted chocolate chip.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 11:37pm

        Re: Re: Hi rez or low rez?

        I Got NO-Rez UNDERSTAND?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2015 @ 5:44am

        Re: Re: Hi rez or low rez?

        "If the low res version is good enough for you then you don't have to buy it."

        And Hollywood will lay the blame totally at piracy due to the lack of sales caused by people who simply watch the low res. free version instead of buying the high res. paid version.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 5:31pm

    I have viewed some of the old Paramount movies under the classics heading, some are still garbage and some remind you what movies could still be like but are not. The one I downloaded didn't have sound with it so haven't tried another. 480 resolution as I recall, not great but watchable, especially the B&W films.

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzMVH2jEyEwXPBvyht8xQNw/playlists

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 5:41pm

    out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

    Please help in hiding this comment; out_of_the_blue considers hidden comments to be irrefutably true.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 6:30pm

    Useless for me.

    The videos aren't available in my region (I guess I live in Middle-earth)

    Fortunately I found this site called the "the pirate of bay" that has all of them conveniently available in very good HD formats.

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

  • identicon
    Anon01, 16 Oct 2015 @ 1:44am

    Videos not working

    here in UK either.

    Good job Viacom!

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 19 Oct 2015 @ 6:09am

      Re: Videos not working

      So... are they going to whinge about the inevitable piracy that will ensue over videos that are supposedly free to watch?

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

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 17 Oct 2015 @ 5:04pm

    Someone forgot to mention that Hollywood was also a "pirate site" at the beginning.
    The irony...

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


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