Defending the Copyright

The internet has undoubtedly become the number one source of almost anything and everything—information, news, pictures, music and audio content, and visual content such as pictures and videos are freely shared and made public with this wonderful frontier of technology. This is good for websites and web users alike, but there are detriments to this resource as well. Last month, Viacom, the major media player which owns the music channels MTV and VH1, kids’ shows giants Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite, the Comedy Central channel, and Paramount Pictures, filed a $1-billion lawsuit against Google, the parent company which purchased YouTube in 2006.

(Helft and Fabrikant 2007) The Google-Viacom case can be considered a first, and could be the biggest of its kind to date. While it is not the first time that a media company summoned YouTube and Google for the video-sharing framework of the popular website, this is only the time that Google received a copyright infringement lawsuit and at this cost, sparking talks on how piracy is proliferating online—and how website companies are intervening to aid in eliminating such from happening.

Six weeks before the case was filed, Viacom sent word to Google and YouTube for the removal of more than 100,000 unauthorized video clips uploaded in the video-sharing site acquired by Google in November 2006 for $1. 76 million. (Associated Press 2007) Google claims to have aided the complaint and responded to the problem according to the terms of Viacom. Viacom, it turns out, was not satisfied. At the time of the lawsuit, over 160,000 Viacom clips have been illegally uploaded into the YouTube database, with a total viewing of 1.

5 billion, (Reuters 2007) These and other videos, both amateur and copyrighted, uploaded in YouTube and many other video-sharing internet sites are attracting advertisers more than ever, giving revenue to the website and to video clip owners who have gained licensing agreements. This has not been the case for Viacom. Prior to the lawsuit, licensing arrangements have been on the run between the two companies, where Viacom demanded deserved compensation for their copyrighted material posted on YouTube.

CBS Corporation and NBC Universal have had the same deals. Should the licensing agreement pushed through, Viacom will receive a percentage of advertising revenue for each of their ad-supported material in YouTube, plus the added exposure of their shows online. However, the talks were unsuccessful. (Associated Press 2007) Growing bigger At the start of the year, YouTube proved to be getting more popular. 133. 5 million visitors were recorded in January, up by a big percentage from 9. 5 million in 2006. (Associated Press 2007) The numbers are growing.

YouTube’s popularity spans its two main components—it allows any kind of video recorded in an acceptable format to be uploaded on the site, free for all users to see; and it allows these videos to be downloaded by viewers as many times as they want. With the company growing bigger every day, as the numbers of users and contributors inflate, the problem of copyright infringement also balloons. Viacom is only one of the companies whose videos are posted on YouTube and many other video and file-sharing internet sites.

There are other companies who are now prey to this level of freedom that the internet is giving to piracy, but who keeps mum about the issue because the exposure on these popular sites also contribute to the success of their company. On the other hand, the proliferation of illegally acquired content online jeopardizes many things. For one, television advertisers are swiftly shifting to online advertising, which is proving to be an avant-garde choice for marketing today.

Because the internet reaches people globally, many advertisers are starting to venture into globally innovative advertisements using the internet, drastically changing the way television advertising used to be. Secondly, it costs copyright owners much time, money, and effort to monitor their content for the sake of protecting their copyrights. Most media companies, for instance, delegate their people to occasionally comb through content-sharing sites to make sure that their materials are not posted online without their permission.

Lastly, licensing agreements does not end the issue. Because shared content can be downloaded and uploaded through the internet, it also became easier for web users to make, distribute, and even sell copies of music and video, leading to the bigger problem of piracy which has been a major issue in the entertainment industry today. Illegally uploaded content continue to thrive online, and even if many companies consider the exposure positive, many others like Viacom are not pleased with the widespread copyright infringement that is taking place.

Majority of website users, on the other hand, are just enjoying the free content that they are able to get and share, regardless of licenses and copyrights. Bad move? Google hopes that the case does not affect the success of the site and of their other ventures, and says the company will not let it happen. (Perez 2007) Even with a lawsuit in one hand, and a deliberation on the copyright protection technique to adopt on the other, Google remains to be a leading online video source worldwide.

Media exposure given by news and print items showcasing how web users are utilizing YouTube—for publicly exhibiting performances such as dances and song numbers, and even to influence other users in terms of politics and religion—is helping the website enough to keep the traffic flowing and the viewing hits growing. However, despite this optimism that the case does not drastically affect the operations and success of their million-dollar online video-sharing investment, competitors are on the lookout. In 2006, Viacom licensed Joost, another video-sharing internet site, for many of its copyrighted material.

(Ahrens 2007) Other content-sharing sites that, unlike YouTube, use filtering technology to scan and remove uploaded copyrighted content also enjoyed licensing deals with copyright owners at much ease. For ordinary web users, though, the absence of filter technology in YouTube made it even more preferred. With the filter process, copyrighted content are deleted from the database as soon as they are detected. The user who uploaded the file will then receive a notice that the content was removed because of copyright irregularities.

Because YouTube is yet to develop its version of this technology, as Google claims, users are virtually free to upload and download any content as they please. Things may change, however, on the course of the Viacom-Google case. While Google claims that it is doing everything in its capabilities to combat copyright infringement in its conglomerate YouTube, Viacom is vigilant and confident that they can prove that Google failed to do its part in protecting the copyrighted content of its site.

(Perez 2007) With the absence of the simplest copyright tracking technology, it will be difficult for Google to disprove these allegations from Viacom. Because Google failed to prevent further infringements from occurring after Viacom summoned it for the 100,000 illegal clips on its site, and because 160,000 clips were later found on the YouTube database weeks after the summon, it is even harder for Google to cleanly save itself from the case. Direct competitors are not the only ones who have taken advantage of the situation.

Google stocks also fluctuated at the onset of the case. Google shares dropped 2. 0 percent on NASDAQ Stock Market immediately following the lawsuit while Viacom’s Class B shares rose 1. 2 % on the New York Stocks Exchange (Associated Press 2007) The better stand Viacom’s stand is stable and justifiable. Should the media company win, it will not be surprising for many other media companies to follow suit and end their longstanding and silent fight against copyright infringements that has been victimizing them online.

This may not be favorable for web users who have been fans of YouTube, though. As Viacom videos account to thousands of the most popularly shared clips online, a big percentage currently enjoyed free by many, the sudden pull-out of these clips when Viacom wins plus the prohibition that Viacom is asking against YouTube from airing any of its videos will change the life of many online fans—but this will only be an onset.

Soon fans will slowly revert back to their traditional viewing routines should they want to watch MTV or South Park, and use the VCR should they want a record of the show. The television industry as well will be able to have a heavy weight lifted of its chest, though the battle never ceases to end. If there is an industry which will be radically affected by this, it will be the content-sharing industry online, which will definitely loose much of its traffic which gives it the advertisers it needs to earn its revenue.

At the onset, whether it becomes Google’s or Viacom’s triumph at the end of the day, one thing becomes clear: copyright violations are all over the internet. The provision of free resource for all internet users may be a positive point, but the suffering industry which looses money from the unauthorized access and distribution of these free resources, while the access points and providers are raking in more money than they can imagine, is worth more than what $1-billion lawsuit can solve.

References

  • Ahrens, F.“Viacom Sues YouTube over Copyright. ” 2007. http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/13/AR2007031300595. html (April 16, 2007) Associated Press. “Viacom Sues Google’s YouTube. ” 2007. http://www. startribune. com/535/story/1051616. html (April 16, 2007)
  • Helft, M. and Fabrikant, G. “WhoseTube? Viacom Sues Google Over Video Clips. ” 2007. http://www. nytimes. com/2007/03/14/technology/14viacom. html? ex=1331524800&en=0778206ffd84b464&ei=5089&partner=rssyahoo&emc=rss (April 16, 2007)