I have often described the coming battle over online video as Godzilla vs. Mothra–that is to say, a battle which will be fought out among corporate behemoths much more powerful than any vidder. Reel one of this monster movie is starting: Viacom vs. Google. This week, both sides released paperwork detailing their claims and accusations; at stake is YouTube, and even more specifically, the DMCA’s “safe harbor” provision–which is just the little detail which has made most of the internet possible. (Short, IANAL version: “safe harbor” means that you can’t hold internet services liable for everything their users do with them. If streaming sites, web ISPs, social networks, etc. had to guarantee that nobody would ever use them to do, publish, or share anything illegal, they wouldn’t be able to function.)
For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom…As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.
Is it too much to hope that Viacom flounces and deletes all its journals in a huff?