Old media v. new – Viacom goes toe to toe with Google

YouTube copyright

Yesterday Viacom filed a $1bn lawsuit against Google for copyright infringement on YouTube.  They are also seeking an injunction which could shut YouTube down.  Read about it in detail here on Google Watch.  I think that this is going be be very interesting – although some doubt that it is significant – including 24/7Wallst.

Regular readers will know I am of the opinion that it might be possible for music to become a DRM free industry, but I don’t think the same will work for video – monetisation at the point of consumption is essential and I can’t see how that can happen without some kind of protection.

This battle between Google and Viacom hits this point – Viacom is alleging that Google is dragging it’s heals in implementing fingerprinting technology which would allow rights owners to protect their position.  (As an aside, fingerprinting is emerging as a lightweight technology which might enable rights enforcement on a wide scale.)

Viacom uses strong language.  They accuse Google of “massive intentional copyright infringement” and of a “brazen disregard” of copyright law.  Philipped Dauman, Viacom’s Chief Exec even went as far as to say:

“Quite honestly, in my 20-25 years in this business, I’ve never encountered a major company that has behaved in such a wilful way for so long”

I wonder if this fight over professional content is an indication that monetising UGC is difficult.  Viacom’s allegation that Google loads content on to its own website certainly points in this direction.

How this pans out will have huge implications for Google’s ability to operate as a media business. 

It will also have big implications for entrepreneurs and start-ups playing in this area.  YouTube competitors like DailyMotion here in Europe will be directly impacted.  Thinking more widely a negative result for Google might (and probably should) make it more difficult for start-ups with an unclear IP position to raise money, or to get good valuations.  I have written about this before here.

  • Nick,
    Nothing about this post in itself, couldn’t see where else to leave feedback though. I read a lot of blogs about startups, hitech and VC, but I think yours is especially good. I like how you actually theorise about the issues and underlying forces behind the events in this field, as opposed to just reporting them. I know blogs are great for early news, and I like that, but one blog revealing a company is enough, I want more analysis and philoso-theory 🙂

    Keep it up 🙂

  • Nick,
    Nothing about this post in itself, couldn’t see where else to leave feedback though. I read a lot of blogs about startups, hitech and VC, but I think yours is especially good. I like how you actually theorise about the issues and underlying forces behind the events in this field, as opposed to just reporting them. I know blogs are great for early news, and I like that, but one blog revealing a company is enough, I want more analysis and philoso-theory 🙂

    Keep it up 🙂

  • Nic – as a follow up to your last point I’ve taken a look at other European companies that may be affected by this lawsuit.

    http://www.libraryhouse.net/blog/2007/03/16/viacom-more-than-a-lawsuit/

    I’m also curious to hear an investor’s perspective on the hypothetical situation where a VC backs a video sharing site and a digital asset management company. Publicly they should complement each other but realistically it seems like a conflict. Do you agree?

  • Nic – as a follow up to your last point I’ve taken a look at other European companies that may be affected by this lawsuit.

    http://www.libraryhouse.net/blog/2007/03/16/viacom-more-than-a-lawsuit/

    I’m also curious to hear an investor’s perspective on the hypothetical situation where a VC backs a video sharing site and a digital asset management company. Publicly they should complement each other but realistically it seems like a conflict. Do you agree?

  • nic

    Thanks Scott. I don’t think there would be any real conflict if there was a fingerprinting company and YouTube look a like in the same portfolio.

    The one would/should be a customer of the other, and as such they would be unlikely to engage in any public discussion that might cause problems.

  • nic

    Thanks Scott. I don’t think there would be any real conflict if there was a fingerprinting company and YouTube look a like in the same portfolio.

    The one would/should be a customer of the other, and as such they would be unlikely to engage in any public discussion that might cause problems.

  • I keep coming back to the deal between Youtube and Audible Magic where accusations kept surfacing that the technology wasn’t being applied sooner because it would cut down on Youtube content. I recognize that these companies should work well together but it’s more lucrative if they don’t.

  • I keep coming back to the deal between Youtube and Audible Magic where accusations kept surfacing that the technology wasn’t being applied sooner because it would cut down on Youtube content. I recognize that these companies should work well together but it’s more lucrative if they don’t.