Am I the only one who finds the current public squabble between YouTube and Viacom a tad unseemly? The opening briefs in Viacom’s copyright suit against YouTube were made public yesterday, and YouTube used the occasion as reason to post an item by its chief counsel accusing Viacom of secretly uploading its stuff “for years,” going out of its way to make it look pirated. Viacom has responded with a brief statement saying that YouTube’s founders thought their site needed to “steal” content to prosper; it doesn’t deny YouTube’s charges, but says they’re a red herring.
I’m not a judge, a lawyer, or an intellectual-property expert; neither are most of the folks who the YouTube and Viacom items are aimed at. That said, Mike Masnick of Techdirt has a good pro-YouTube analysis. And he links to the Hollwood Reporter’s coverage, which sides with Viacom.
OK, I’m not very well informed here, but if YouTube’s charge that Viacom sneakily uploaded its own content to YouTube is true, it does seem damned odd that it would be suing YouTube at the same time. It wouyld be like breaking into a warehouse and dumping your furniture there, then suing the warehouse’s owner for robbery. Right?
The early YouTube–before Google bought it, and shortly thereafter–was a Barbary Coast of Web video, and I can understand why content owners would be infuriated by it. Today’s version is more heavily regulated (and less fun). It’s still rife with copyrighted material uploaded without its owner’s knowledge or consent. But let’s hope that YouTube is now doing enough to police the site that its dystopian scenarios of Viacom winning the case and making YouTube and YouTube-like sites into impossibilities doesn’t come to pass.