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The GooTube Debate

By - February 05, 2007

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On the issue of Viacom’s takedown notice, and GooTube in general:

In this corner, against GooTube: Mark Cuban

Gootube has taken the arrogant position with big media that “You can’t stop us. You can’t stop people from uploading your copyrighted materials and if you want us to, you have to do a deal with us”. With the little copyright owner who feels their work has been illegally hosted on Google Video they simply try to intimidate them.



And in this corner, against both Viacom and GooTube, Cory Doctorow:

This is shockingly bad behaviour on the part of both Viacom and Google, YouTube’s owner. Viacom’s indiscriminate spamigation is incredibly negligent and evil. They certainly know that a search for a term like “Redbones” will catch videos like Jim Moore’s Sunday nite dinner at Redbones in Somerville, Mass (a 30 second clip of Moore and several friends “having dinner in a ribs place in Somerville”). The idea that they have members of the bar — officers of the court! — signing affidavits swearing that they have a good-faith belief that these clips infringe their copyrights is disgraceful. Practicing law is a privilege, not a right. The law societies should be holding these attorneys to account for this kind of behaviour.

But Google’s lawyers should have known better, too. The DMCA says that if a web-hoster ignores a takedown request, it’s liable for copyright damages if the material in question is found to be infringing. YouTube can’t afford to just let any lunatic — including the savage pricks at Viacom — indiscriminately censor the content it hosts. That’s not fair to its customers.

I haven’t found anyone who is pro Google yet. Anyone?

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5 thoughts on “The GooTube Debate

  1. Steve Rosenbaum says:

    Well, if I were scoring this with good-guy points, i’d say that YouTube is out in front.

    Here’s why -

    First of all, YouTube has never turned on any of the icky pre-roll ads that they certainly could have. Secondly, YouTube has been providing value to shows… there’s no doubt that there is significant buzz around some programs thanks to the pass along value of clips. And YouTube did limit uploads to 10 minutes pretty early on, effectively making it impossible for anyone to upload entire programs.

    Meanwhile, Viacom has been all over the place. They threatened to build a “YouTube Killer”, then they took down clips, then they turned them back on, and now they’re down again.

    YouTube has been dealing with the acquisition, trying to add more features and services to users, and remain responsive to publishers. Given that they’ve done a number of deals with publishers (certainly with interests as significant as Viacom) the charge they they’re unwilling to provide a reasonable proposal seems a bit uncalled for.

    The problem is that Viacom is now looking past YouTube to Google – and see the huge long term potential for ads on Viacom clips. That is fair enough. But it seems like this could be a moment where Viacom’s attorney’s could let the space evolve a bit.

    Once again, without being in the room, it’s hard to know the tone of the negotiations. But Viacom has a good deal to lose here. What will happen to the Sarah Silverman show without the pass along buzz among her core audience? Certainly the Daily Show won’t be hurt by this – just the fans. But for new shows that need word of mouth, Viacom just lost a valuable resource.

  2. Michael Stone says:

    Let’s be honest here. Viacom has two choices: 1) They can give Google their content, get hooked on the traffic, begin forecasting the revenue and take their $22M check each year, OR 2) They can elect to be a primary player in the online Video space and try to generate shareholder value from the next great Internet value creator – Video.

    It’s hard to know which way they’ll go but I will make one prediction: If they give Google the content and “take the check” they will forever regret the decision in ways that equate to the feeling that Yahoo, MSN and AOL have about missing the SEARCH revolution.

  3. Alex C says:

    First of all there is no way that Viacom “spammed” keywords. The takedown policy at YouTube requires individual videos be identified. So good for them for taking the time to find 100,000 videos.
    I say Google is flush with cash $10B and should be prepared to invest for the long haul for their users.
    The promo argue is bull- there’s a big difference between links and consumption of content.
    I say it’s time to see Google come down a peg – there’s a fair amount of evil over there. They are starting to feel a little like the microsoft monopoly they fight so hard against

  4. Dominic says:

    The Google vs Viacom tussle is a repeat of the technology vs content dramas of the last decade. As internet usage and online commerce have mushroomed over this time period the stakes have got a lot higher, as we saw with BN $ price tag for YouTube.

    Observers from the world of copyright talk about the social contract between users and owners of copyright changing in the last decade as technology enables greater personal usage and freedoms. This social contract is undoubtedly under stress, but I see no signs of governments (via the WTO or WIPO) sitting up and starting to think about new copyright Treaties and legislation that might address this. The problem is too complex and fast moving for the legislative process to have any worthwhile effect.

    Instead I see the market working this out through the corporate posturing that has taken place since the GooTube union last summer.

    As far who is in the right? well, Viacom have invested heavily in their content and rightly want to have the right to control its uage within the boundaries of the law. GooTube have invested in their platform(s) and are pleased as punch that millions of people are using it to view other peoples’ content, which they don’t have to pay for. If advertisers are drawn to the audiences on GooTube then there is a commercial model for content owners like Viacom and GooTube to share revenues. These audiences may not be all that attractive for high end CPM rates, but might generate good revenues through sheer volume. [interested to know anyone elses thoughts on that].

    I have dealt with both Google and content owners for many years – there are remarkable similarities as well as differences between the characters of these organisations. I don’t find either set of organisations “customer focused” at the corporate level. Instead there is – at a DNA level – an attitude that they are right because “that’s just the way it is”. Content owners invoke the holy relic of copyright law “the author” (even though they probably screwed the author anyway) and Google invokes the experience and needs of the mythical “user”. On Google’s part this is a cop-out as far as GooTube is concerned and smacks of a disingenuous attitude towards copyright. They know full well they are playing the grey areas in the legal system. After all, if anyone infringed the patents or copyrights of Google, they would feel the full wrath of their not inconsiderable army of lawyers :-)