The Google vs. Viacom Debate

Yesterday’s post about Viacom suing Google brought a couple dozen fantastic debate points. You can rest assured that Viacom’s public relations team is doing a “word of mouth” audit (using Buzzmetrics or another player) and that your quotes are being read by nervous spokespeople.

fight.jpgI was amused by at Slashdot in which one individual suggested Google should remove all Viacom properties from its search results! Richard Brandt, a blogger and journalist who is writing a book on Google, predicts Viacom will settle for $500 million.

Incidentally, I started my online video obsession with Revver and uploaded about 2 dozen videos with copyrighted music. Revver’s CEO, Steven Starr, called me one day and explained why the site is vigilant about copyrighted material. He explained how, in the end, I’d want the protection of copyright for my content. I was so compelled with his rationale that I voluntarily pulled videos down and resubmitted them with Garageband music. A couple weeks ago I used a company’s logo on a Revver video, and Revver received a hostile letter from the logo’s owner (and you know who you are, bastards). Again- I pulled the video down quickly and apologized to Revver.

Now my rule of thumb is simple: If a copyrighted song will dramatically help a video, I’ll use it as a score. But I never do it for a video that I think might have a shelf life, and I accept 5 risks.

  1. It probably won’t get featured.
  2. I won’t be able to use it on Revver or any shared-revenue site.
  3. It’s not likely to get used on a television network.
  4. I’ll probably have to delete it when Google/YouTube start revenue sharing
  5. It’s possible that individually I could be sued (remember, folks, Google’s not going to take all the bullets here).

That being said, I think Viacom is tarnishing its public image by acting like a scorned girlfriend.

It’s understandable that it feels robbed, frustrated and a bit frightened. In the end, it has an obligation to protect its content. Here’s what gets me. How in the WORLD can it point to a loss of revenue?

  • Remember Viacom. We’re watching more television since online video arrived. Not less.
  • Most stolen clips on YouTube are too short to cannibalize viewership
  • Online videos have probably been the best marketing tool for television that ever existed

I once did a video with my son laughing at “The Office” (probably my favorite television show). The video is about my son’s reaction to a brief clip. I contacted the network numerous times to get their approval to put this online and didn’t get the courtesy of a response. To thee I say… “lighten up, Francis.” Dang. I can’t find that clip from Stripes on YouTube.

14 Replies to “The Google vs. Viacom Debate”

  1. LOL it is posible to get copyright music onto revver. I have accidentally uploaded a video with a track that’s not to be used to earn money from. (before I understood the CC rights). Revver is VERY strickt if you don’t explain where the music’s from they’ll question you. They even refused a video with ilife tracks on it once.

    I sent an email to the BBC for permission for a clip they said no, they also then said they can’t give permission. I then asked who could give me permission and he said they couldn’t. GRR well I soon sent it off to Joooorrrrrrg as he wanted to see it.

  2. None of this stuff pertains to me since I’m an original content provider of uninfringed crap. So I’ll comment on something else:

    Have you seen Tubemogul yet? You can get the view stats on your videos at Revver, YouTube, MySpace, Yahoo Video and Metacafe and run comparison charts between the hosting sites to see how all or certain of your videos do between one site and another. I like it.

  3. You say:

    “Now my rule of thumb is simple: If a copyrighted song will dramatically help a video, I’ll use it as a score. ”

    Nalts, do I have to come over there and break your thumbs?

    Your rule of thumb shoud be, if you don’t have the rights to it, don’t use it.

    There are lots of reasons for this.

    Most important to me is that the commercial artists do not need promotion. Independent artists do. We’re all in this together and helping to promote independent artists who allow their music to be used should be supported. Check out iodapromomet. I’m sure you can find lots of music over there.

    Also take a look at and magnatune.

    Head over here and scroll down to the sections on music and copyright…


  4. Kevin great “picture” and sums this all up well.

    IMO this comes down to pure unadulterated greed!

    Via-con already made money on the advertisement they sold when they aired their content, doesn’t matter how many eyeballs they had.

    Their argument that youtube is making tons of money off ads because their stuff is up there I say is BS it’s such a tiny percent. I argue youtube makes money off the communities they create and allow people to dress up their sites, keep track of what they like, organize and hook up with other people.

    “Online videos have probably been the best marketing tool for television that ever existed”

    I hope Google holds out and takes this to the mattresses. You can’t keep reaming the American consumer and expect them to love you or continue to buy your product. Via-con is just efing greedy.

    I will no longer watch CBS and all her siblings. I have more to say on the topic, but I’ll stop there.

  5. Nalts, you’re right, that sparked quite a debate.

    Interestingly enough, all the people who are Pro-Tube would probably cry to momma if someone stole one of their precious online videos and made money somewhere else.

    Of course Viacom and other large media houses realize the free publicity their shows get from folks posting short clips. I suspect their fear is the loss of revenue from their advertisers when longer work shows up sans ads, not when someone posts a short clip.

    As someone who values the copyrights of the materials I have produced – my stance is pro-copyright holder (regardless of how big or small that entity is.) Anyone making a profit off of my work without an agreement from me doesn’t deserve it and should stop.

    The copyright holder should be free to judge what is good publicity for their work and what is a violation of their copyright – not some acne-laden basement-dweller with a capture card, iLife and a FIOS connection.

  6. I’m just confused. YouTube removed all of those videos that Viacom filed a DMCA complaint for, even videos that did not violate copyright. They did this because under law they have to remove all videos complained about. For those users who had their legitimate videos deleted, they can file a counter-claim, but still, YouTube did not filter out which videos to delete from the request. They deleted all of them as required by law. But the law doesn’t require them to actively filter out each video prior to a DMCA request, so why does Viacom expect that?

  7. Viacom is making a huge mistake. Instead of sueing they should be working with google to make some money. You mentioning The Office(my favorite show since it came out, both the English and American versions) is a perfect example of how a company could make a killing because online video sites.

    The Office(US Version) almost died after the first season but with fans posting tons of clips from the first season online the fan base grew even more. NBC saw this and added a second season which was hilarious and the amount of fans got even higher. Then made the shows downloadable at a reasonable price on itunes which made it blow up even more. Because of fans having a place to get the word out to others about how funny this shit was NBC wouldn’t have the funniest show on primetime that they do now.

  8. Well said, Nalts. Every last word, especially the last words. These posts are so damn entertaining. I heard the Dr. Evil voice in my head yesterday too (I mean, how can you not?).

  9. 1. The laws need to be re-written.
    2. If you’re not making money off the content, what’s the big deal?

    If a video moves over the profit line, start charging. It’s also easier to track someone who is making money because they have to incorporate and must deal with the IRS.

    Steve, Nalts should complain if some company is making money off a complete video without his permission, and Via-Con should bitch about yt showing full length South Parks, the current laws takes care of that. But if pieces of South Park or Nalts’ stuff are in someone else’s videos, as long as credit is given and they aren’t selling ad space over break even costs, what‘s the problem? That used to be known as flattery.

    Look here, in just one post I’ve managed to create at least 100,000 new jobs overnight. More than George Bush has done in 7 years – Internet Watch Dogs. Face it they are the new Air Bags, that‘s the price of progress. But the laws must change first.

    Make fair laws then police them. This will of course put a dent in the lawyer’s pockets, but the creators and the people will have more access to different cultures and art forms. This is aka quality of life.

    Personally, I try to credit everyone I use and give links if I can find them. I’ll add and re-upload a whole video if I missed credits. And FTR, I don’t make a dime.

    As far as I’m concerned the ads yt puts up allows me free access to display my art. If it’s something from start to finish, i.e, a whole ep of The Simpsons with no other personal content, at least let’s say 50% they can and probably should remove it. But if the Simpsons, SP, FG, etc.. were smart they run some old complete shows on their own yt channel with a link to buy the complete season and the potential to make money off of YT. That of course is the smart move, unlike Via-con greedy move.

    What the hell would Jasper Johns or Andy Warhol do today? Cambell’s Soup and the Louvre would sue their asses.

    People before Profits I say. Ideas are universal, the priority shouldn’t be who gets to the patent office first. You’re just trained by big corporations to think that way.

    If you want justice under the law, let’s start with the Swiss and move to the Cayman Island oh, and since they are in the headlines let’s take a good look at Dubai. Talk about a stealing! The fair fight isn’t you in the boxing ring with the strongest fastest man in the world, you don’t stand a chance.

    I hope this is what google will champion.

  10. “Your rule of thumb shoud be, if you don’t have the rights to it, don’t use it.”………I agree!

  11. Steve,

    Good point on independant musicians needing publicity… I recently put up a silly video with no intention of it going anywhere and it has just passed the 100,000 view mark. The musicians emailed thanks to me for using their music. I found the music from

  12. jischinger – your comment on Andy Warhol shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the law – that’s trademark law, not copyright law.

    As long as you are not misrepresenting the product, a nonowner can use a trademark to refer to an actual trademarked product or organization. That’s why the news is allowed to plaster the Microsoft logo up on the screen when they present a news story about them.

    Andy Warhol’s use of Campbells Soup Cans would fit under fair use or first amendment rights.

Comments are closed.