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Google to Viacom - The Law is Clear, and On Our Side 290

An anonymous reader writes "Google responded to the opinion piece in the Washington Post by a Viacom Lawyer with a letter to the editor titled 'An End Run on Copyright Law.' Their strong wording sends a very concrete message: 'Viacom is attempting to rewrite established copyright law through a baseless lawsuit. In February, after negotiations broke down, Viacom requested that YouTube take down more than 100,000 videos. We did so immediately, working through a weekend. Viacom later withdrew some of those requests, apparently realizing that those videos were not infringing, after all. Though Viacom seems unable to determine what constitutes infringing content, its lawyers believe that we should have the responsibility and ability to do it for them. Fortunately, the law is clear, and on our side.'"
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Google to Viacom - The Law is Clear, and On Our Side

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  • Tag this: (Score:4, Funny)

    by Cocoronixx ( 551128 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:12PM (#18533721) Homepage
    • Re:Tag this: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by theStorminMormon ( 883615 ) <.theStorminMormon. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:17PM (#18533833) Homepage Journal
      Seriously, that is ownage like I've never seen between large corporations before.

      It looks like Google did in fact know exactly what they were doing when they bought YouTube. Right now Viacom looks pretty much like they just stepped on head of a rake and got whacked in the face.

      If there's one thing you can say for Google, they know how to stand up for sane copyright law.
      • Re:Tag this: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Xtravar ( 725372 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:35PM (#18534207) Homepage Journal
        If there's one thing you can say for Google, they know how to stand up for sane copyright law.

        That's because Google's entire business model is based around using other people's copyrighted material.

        It's a symbiotic relationship where Google can use pieces of peoples content to advertise over while simultaneously causing that full content to be consumed, making the creators money.

        What a strange new world...
        • Right. Why don't people here on mention the fact that the DMCA safe harbor clause specifically says that the infringing entity must not gain financially to qualify for safe harbor? Check it out for yourselves on this DMCA faq right here [chillingeffects.org]:

          The service provider must not gain any financial benefit that is attributable to the infringing material. [512(c)(1)(B)], [512(d)(2)].

          I hate the DMCA. I hate the copyright cartel. However, the DMCA is on the cartel's side here. Google is in trouble, because they are in fac

          • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @06:24PM (#18536185) Journal
            The DMCA FAQ is not quite precise enough here.

            The actual words used in DMCA 512(c)(1)(B) are

            "does not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in a case in which the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity; and"

            Google does not lose the safe harbor by making money off of YouTube; if they did, the DMCA safe harbor would be vitiated. The benefit has to be _directly_ attributable to the infringing activity; an indirect benefit like "more people come to the site, and thus see the ads, thus raising revenue" does not qualify.

    • Re:Tag this: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dan Slotman ( 974474 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:47PM (#18534453)

      I have a better idea—don't tag it that. Google's publicists didn't get in any more concrete argument here than Viacom's did.

      Both Google and Viacom desperately want to set the agenda and the precedent for online distribution of media. With the increased importance of digital distribution, the future of both companies may depend on convincing the courts to see things their way. These ploys are merely the skirmishes between forces scouting for good positions; the real battle is yet to come.
      • I have a better idea--don't tag it that.

        Too late.. now people need to tag it !omfgpwnt just so it doesn't look ridiculous. You're right too.. I was expecting the article to be damning with a tag like that, but all the "good stuff" was in the summary.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HikingStick ( 878216 )
        While not a lawyer, the precedent in this case is in the realm of flea markets. Copyright owners are responsible for identifying infringing content, not the organizers of the flea market.

        Now, if it became clear that flea market organizers kept welcoming DVD pirates back (after the infringing content has been discovered previously), then the organizer may be setting him/herself up for some argument of complicity...
  • by CheeseburgerBrown ( 553703 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:13PM (#18533743) Homepage Journal
    Optimistic: one day our grandchildren won't believe us when we tell them how ridiculous the state of intellectual property law was back in the early 21st century.

    Pessimistic: we won't be allowed to tell them, for copyright reasons.

    • by NeoManyon ( 953080 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:43PM (#18534369) Homepage
      For an interesting and somewhat chilling read on what the future might be like if we follow the pessimistic path then read "The Right to Read" by RMS. http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [gnu.org]

      Here's the beginning:

      For Dan Halbert, the road to Tycho began in college--when Lissa Lenz asked to borrow his computer. Hers had broken down, and unless she could borrow another, she would fail her midterm project. There was no one she dared ask, except Dan.

      This put Dan in a dilemma. He had to help her--but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong--something that only pirates would do.

    • by 26199 ( 577806 ) *

      Realistic: more of the same, because stupidity never goes out of fashion.

  • "Fortunately, the law is clear, and on our side."

    This translates to "Drop your lawsuit or you're guaranteed to lose. Besides, our market cap is much bigger than yours so we can simply buy you to make this go away. Na na na na na na!"
    • by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) * on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:31PM (#18534139)

      This translates to "Drop your lawsuit or you're guaranteed to lose. Besides, our market cap is much bigger than yours so we can simply buy you to make this go away. Na na na na na na!"

      Nah, Google doesn't want Viacom to drop the suit. Google was gunning for this fight and they want Viacom to come at them swinging hard. It's a fight Google is likely to win, but it has to be a fight otherwise it won't resolve anything and the rampant DMCA abuse will continue.

      • It's not entirely clear that YouTube has a viable business model without violation of reasonable copyright law, setting aside for the moment the DMCA. Of all the YouTube links sent to me by friends, probably 8 of 10 are links to copyrighted material. Frank Zappa on Crossfire, Talking Heads performing on some television show or another, clips from The Daily Show, these are the things that draw viewers to YouTube. If you take a few moments and gape in open-mouthed shock for a moment at some unfortunate sou
  • by ack154 ( 591432 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:16PM (#18533805)
    I think Google just drew a big middle finger over the Viacom HQ on Google Maps...
  • Groklaw (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SnowZero ( 92219 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:16PM (#18533807)
    Well, it looks like Groklaw will now have something to cover after the IBM-SCO lawsuit is done. Hopefully this one won't take 4+ years to be decided.
  • by iPaul ( 559200 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:18PM (#18533845) Homepage
    And clicked on the "you tube" link from the Mad TV site only to find the content had been pulled from You Tube and Mad TV's account was suspended. (I don't know if this is still the case, as this happened a few days ago). I assume Mad TV had originally posted the material, since the link to You Tube was from the Mad TV official site. Anyway, that's not the only one I've come across where legitimate content, posted by the right hand of one company, was ordered to be pulled by the left hand of the same company. I think that You Tube represents a significant opportunity to get Viacom's content out there for people to watch. It's a shame they can't come to some sort of agreement. (And it's a shame Viacom doesn't like the law they helped pay for).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by beckerist ( 985855 )
      Considering the first season of The Colbert Report was essentially DRIVEN by YouTube hits (think: Green Screen Challenge!), I think Viacom should be THANKING the GooTube!
      • by Peyna ( 14792 )
        People on the Internet often overstate their own importance.

        I wouldn't be surprised if a large majority of Colbert Report viewers the first season have never watched a single Colbert Report episode on Youtube.
    • And the other day I was reading one of the major Norwegian newspaper's online edition where they had a link to a Danish TV commercial. It got pulled, but it was from a traffic safety campaign made by a government institute, so I doubt they sent a C&D letter to youtube.

      It might, however, have had something to do with the content of the commercial: A topless girl waving a speed limit sign over her head.

      I think we need an European youtube...
  • Hee hee, go Google. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stumbles ( 602007 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:32PM (#18534143)
    I think Google's response is spot on and equally important highlight's some of the ineptness that exists in the media industry. How is it that Viacom cannot adequately identify their own material? That's just astounding. And just how do they expect someone to know if it is their material? What bunch of buffons. If I were a stockholder of that company, I would be grilling the CEO and boardmembers about just exactly why they are not doing their jobs and keeping track of property the company owns.
    • How is it that Viacom cannot adequately identify their own material? That's just astounding.

      Last I looked, a DMCA take-down notice was made under penalty of perjury. Maybe if *someone*, like, say, maybe a judge, would actually hold the slimey lawyer who sent it to that penalty of perjury, viacom would do a better job figuring out what they own. Lawyers would be *far* more likely to think before sending if mistakes meant jail time or monetary loss.

  • If the feds busted 5,000 people under the No Electronic Theft Act, it would send shockwaves through the file sharing userbase in the United States, far more powerfully than 50,000 lawsuits by the RIAA and MPAA. Giving the people who trade in any forum from Limewire to Youtube a choice: pay restitution or go to prison (possibly an upgrade to the NETA) would change many people's tune about this casual infringement really quickly.

    The advantage of having law enforcement take over and bring prosecutions is that
    • by paladinwannabe2 ( 889776 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:56PM (#18534655)
      Like most people, I sometimes go over the speed limit while driving to work (sometimes by as much as 10 miles per hour!) I'm sure that if the Federal Government started arresting people for speeding, most people (myself included) would speed a lot less.

      Of course, any elected official trying to 'crack down on speeding' by tossing speeders in jail wouldn't last long in office. When you give ridiculous punishments for minor offenses, you just breed contempt for the law (not to mention annoy everyone but special interest groups).
    • by Clever7Devil ( 985356 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @05:09PM (#18534955)
      Yeah, but why would the small independent entertainer ever want to do this? YouTube, P2P File Sharing, hey even MySpace Music and Pandora (Though the last two haven't been sued yet AFAIK) all are great ways for these lesser-knowns and amateurs to get their material in front of people. I think the argument that anyone, besides the RIAA and Metallica, actually sees this as a problem is long stale. I was at a Stephen Lynch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Lynch_(musici an)/ [wikipedia.org] concert last month when he made a revealing (to me at least) statement about a song he was not going to perform, "Buy the album, go to iTunes, download it off LimeWire, I don't give a fuck." His albums were noted by Apple as two of the 100 best-selling Independent albums on iTunes in 2005. These artists don't want to send the cops after people who like their music, they want those people to continue liking it so that they will pick up albums and go to shows. Artists make more money touring than they do with album sales by a hefty margin. You can't download the front row.
    • If infringement is going on, I don't oppose legal action. The case here is that (under current law) the copyright owner MUST identify the infringing content and ask for its removal. This lawsuit contends that Google is providing a safe harbor for illegal content. Google is just telling the copyright owners to (do their duty under law and) name the infringing content so they can remove it.

      Each party has a role to play. Google says it is willing to do its part. Suing Google just to get around a legal re
  • Translation (Score:5, Funny)

    by indros13 ( 531405 ) * on Thursday March 29, 2007 @04:41PM (#18534307) Homepage Journal
    Viacom to Google: *snarl*

    Google to Viacom: *smack*

    Viacom: *whimper*
  • It's impossible to detect copyrighted content on any large scale. Expecting YouTube* be the enforcer** of their content is naive at best. Machines can't tell if something was uploaded by its owner or a stranger. If they employ people to investigate this, each person would need to be able to instantly recognize copyrighted stuff*** from any producer in the world (impossible). That means somebody would have to see a video or song and know if it's owned by ABC****, NBC*****, Viacom******, Sony*******, the Disc
    • No.

      A machine, however, might be able to detect a pattern under which the metadata for an upload reflects a probable instance of infringement based on previous specifications.

      If Viacom informed Google of a particular television series, and supplied --

      - the name of the series
      - the descriptions for each episode
      - the cast list
      - the uploaders caught uploading episodes so far, and what channels and tags have been used

      You think Google couldn't build a pretty decent classifier that would have a pretty good chance o
  • Did you hear what I said Viacom? Or shall I turn it up for you?
  • I think Google is quite right. DCMA seems to protect GooTube.

    As I posted in a previous thread on the this general subject, Viacom's fight is not with GooTube - it's with Congress.
  • Real issue here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @05:26PM (#18535279) Homepage
    There are a bunch of side issues here, like what is fair use when considering a video clip of some duration. But there is one big issue:

    Entity A has a service by which lots of stuff gets picked up and made available to others. Some of this is owned by other people and Entity A has no rights to it at all. Is it Entity A's responsibility to ensure they do not collect such material, or is it the owner's? DMCA pretty clearly says it is the owner's and this works on a small scale pretty well.

    But when Entity A is the size of Waste Management and they "accidently" pick up every car in your neighborhood to sell them at auction, is it necessarily a good move to say that every car owner has to sue them individually?

    YouTube is a vacuum cleaner of mammoth proportions and is certainly capable of sucking up whatever content there is to acquire through the dillgent efforts of anonymous contributors. There are vast similarites with Napster here - sure there is a lot of non-infringing content but also lots of infringing content as well. Grokster pretty much said the service can be held liable for copyright abuses of its users.

    I don't think this is at all clear cut. Yes, Viacom probably could do a better job at identifying infringing material and a compromise might be to enable Viacom (and others) to have easy access to recently-uploaded materials for such identification purposes. But in no way does YouTube (or anyone else) get to say they have no responsibility in the matter at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Todd Knarr ( 15451 )

      The distinction is that YouTube isn't vacuuming up the content. Individuals are posting it there. YouTube simply provides the hosting. Not everyone can afford to run their own co-located servers to host their own videos, and the safe-harbor provision of the DMCA recognizes that the companies simply running the servers should have a way of putting the responsibility for what users do on the shoulders of the users.

      This is much akin to the way UPS, FedEx and the USPS work. They move packages from point A to p

  • The flame war has begun. Soon there'll be WTFNOOB and DIAF letters sent to the Washington Post

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.