Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Viacom, YouTube, and One Big Mess

As you may or may not have heard, Viacom (parent company of Paramount, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central amongst others), is suing Google for over one billion dollars due to copyright infringements incurred on the Google-owned site, YouTube. The details are worth perusing, and with a flair of journalistic integrity, you can read about it here.

While I think Viacom has a case, given how much it costs to produce anything - and if they're not seeing any of the profits that Google's reaping from their material they should be upset - this isn't a problem that's going to go away with a silly lawsuit. Technology is so advanced (and thus so accessible) that just about anybody with any decent computing hardware can either create or obtain a digital copy of something. The NY Times article (aforementioned) mentions that NBC, after striking a deal with Google, is still frustrated over YouTube and is considering creating a rival website for its own content, but is that actually going to solve anything?

The great thing about YouTube is the sheer scope of its content. You can literally find anything - from Bro Rape to Thundercats clips to UCLA police using excessive violence to remove someone from a LIBRARY - and it should be noted that people are actually taking the time to upload these files and make them accessible to others. People actually want to share! Let me try that again:

People actually want to share!...

...and probably because they can. To use a cliche, because I can, the world is getting smaller (end cliche), becoming more digital, and computers are turning into TV's. So Viacom succeeds. Big freaking deal. So what? Twenty minutes after the Daily Show airs that very night, someone's gonna post something they found hilarious, at least 100 people are gonna find it, and then it will be taken down. Wash, spin, rinse, repeat. It's not like people are making the decision to NOT watch these shows because they know they can watch little five minute clips of them online. We're also becoming busy, and the collegiate and post-collegiate demographic that is making up the majority of YouTube users and viewers are looking for a quick fix. We're already getting by without your shows, Viacom. We can continue to if you like.

It's another case of corporations not willing to adapt to technology and, thus, society. It's stubbornness, it's bullheaded, and it's futile. YouTube, if nothing else, is the best commercial money can (or cannot, or should) buy. By suing Google instead of working with them, by removing their content from YouTube, Viacom and friends are shooting themselves in the foot. People, young people especially, don't like being told what to do. Especially if they don't have to do it.

And that, ultimately, will cost you.

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