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Tagged: viacom

Copyright law doesn’t make sense on the Internet

Last year, Viacom sued YouTube for a billion dollars over copyright infringement. The lawsuit is problematic and the premise is weak for many reasons, but that’s for another time. The recent news is that Google has filed its response to Viacom’s recent filings. Its defence has people talking about the ideological and political battle that is the backdrop of this lawsuit, namely its effects on copyright law.

Mike Masnick from Techdirt observes that this is ultimately about the difference between content and communication:

Media companies still look on the internet as a content platform. That is, they think of it as a new broadcast medium. Most other folks recognize that the internet is a communications medium, and the focus should be on the ease of communication. That’s a problem for anyone who comes from a world of broadcast media, and it creates all sorts of problems for copyright law that is designed mainly to protect a broadcast-style media. Yet, when it comes to communication, the idea of using copyright to restrict content gets weird in a hurry. [emphasis mine]

In typical communication, copyright makes no sense. You don’t worry about copyright (even though it exists) when you send a letter or an email to a friend. You’re communicating, so of course the idea gets copied and repeated. In broadcast, the broadcast media model was always based on control and artificial scarcity.

Applying copyright to a communications platform sure does get weird in a hurry. My chat client keeps logs on my computer. Do my friends and co-workers have copyright claims on my chat logs? Am I infringing copyright if I forward an email I receive? Who owns the comments on a blog? Do music royalties make sense online?

Copyright was crafted to regulate broadcast mediums, not communications platforms. That’s a very compelling reason why it makes little sense on the Internet.

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Viacom’s Confusion Over Copyright

This story from Viacom Accuses Guy Of Copyright Infringement For Showing Video Of Viacom Infringing On His Copyright

Viacom is a company waging a misguided $2 billion dollar lawsuit against Google/YouTube for copyright infringement (which is committed by users, not Google/YouTube) and sending take down notices to countless YouTube users (some of which are clearly not infringing on their copyright).

In short, they’ve already demonstrated that they have a slight misunderstanding of copyright. But now they’ve just proven that misunderstanding to be quite extreme.

From the article:

VH1 is a Viacom property that has a popular TV show called “Web Junk 2.0.” It basically just takes the more popular/funny/stupid clips that show up on YouTube every week and shows them on TV along with some goofy commentary from the show’s host. I’d always wondered if Viacom compensated the owners of those videos — especially given the company’s position about YouTube. It turns out that neither Viacom nor VH1 compensate the video owners, or even ask their permission. It just assumes that it can use them. Most turn out to be perfectly happy (not surprisingly) to get this sort of free publicity. One guy thought it was so cool that he recorded the clip of Web Junk that featured his own video and posted that on YouTube so he could blog about it. And, in an incredibly ironic move, Viacom sent a takedown notice to YouTube forcing it offline.

So… Viacom’s show infringes upon (well, basically ignores) the copyright of the owner of the video. And then, when the owner posts a clip of his video (which they had not received permission to air) on the show, they tell him that he doesn’t have permission to show a clip of them showing something that they didn’t have permission to show.

I don’t even know what to say to that.

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