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

By March 14, 2007 8 Comments

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.