One of YouTube’s lawyers has just put up an excellent blog post about the current legal battle with Viacom. For someone like me who is frustrated that he can’t watch Daily Show clips online, it’s an interesting read, especially this little nugget of information which I was not aware of:-
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. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users.
The smart course of action would have been to let the clips stay on the site and earn money from the ad revenue, as BBC Worldwide, The X Factor and others have done. Viacom instead spent what must have been a considerable amount building their own sites for clips from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. They’re very good sites (I assume, since they’ve blocked UK users from accessing the video), but by not being on YouTube they are missing out on potential eyeballs. How many extra views and ad dollars would Viacom get if a Daily Show clip popped up as a “related video” to someone’s Keyboard Cat mashup?
In general, I would love a sane attitude to copyright infringement by the Big Media companies. People uploading short clips of their favourite TV shows is not depriving anyone of any income. A 14-year-old girl who posts a two-minute video of herself lip-synching to the Sugababes should not be punished (except, maybe, for crimes against music). Lumping YouTube uploaders in with those who are torrenting gigabytes of stuff on a daily basis is a tactic that’s sure to backfire.