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MTV isn't being evil.... Google, on the other hand.

Posted by: Catherine Holahan on July 15, 2008

To hear Google tell it, MTV-owner Viacom is the epitome of evil media conglomerate and Google is the hero of user privacy.

In a July 15 blog post, YouTube executives portrayed an agreement with Viacom to obscure users’ identities in YouTube’s viewing records as a victory for the common man, won by Google. “We are pleased to report that Viacom, MTV and other litigants have backed off their original demand for all users’ viewing histories,” wrote the YouTube team. “In addition, Viacom and the plaintiffs had originally demanded access to users’ private videos, our search technology, and our video identification technology. Our lawyers strongly opposed each of those demands and the court sided with us.”

The thinly veiled implication of YouTube’s statement is that Viacom wanted to do bad things with users’ data. Perhaps, it planned to follow the music industry’s example: tracing IP addresses to deliver lawsuits to everyone who watched Jon Stewart online.

But, here’s the reality. Viacom isn’t interested in suing YouTube users. Honestly, Viacom may not even be all that interested in suing Google.

Ultimately, Viacom wants to be paid what it thinks is a fair value for its content. That means proving to Google, the courts, and everyone else that the content Viacom spends millions to create draws audiences and advertisers in a way that user home movies don’t.

Clearly, somewhere along the way, before Viacom filed suit, executives from both Google and Viacom discussed how much Comedy Central clips and the like were worth. They disagreed. Viacom believes YouTube’s data is the key to showing that its content deserves the premium it demands.

If Viacom can prove that YouTube users either watch more copyrighted content, including its shows, than user-generated stuff or that their shows draw YouTube’s audience in the first place, then it can make a compelling case to Google, other video sites, and advertisers that it deserves a larger share of the online advertising pie. That’s important not only for when Viacom ultimately licenses its content to Google or another Web site (Hulu perhaps?), but also for its conversations with advertisers about the value of its own online properties.

Despite how Google makes Viacom appear, it’s not out to get users. Moreover, Google is not a hero of user privacy. It collects the data in the first place, in part, to personalize the YouTube experience and, in part, to sell ads. Viacom wants the data, ultimately, for a similar purpose: to generate more online advertising revenue.

The biggest risk with Viacom seeking YouTube’s records isn’t that users will be served with a lawsuit, it’s that Viacom won’t prove professional content is worth more than home videos of hysterical teenagers or puppies playing in a backyard. If Viacom can’t prove that its shows draw users in a way that user-generated stuff doesn’t, then its negotiating position for a share of the online advertising pie will be significantly diminished. Moreover, if Viacom’s popular television content isn’t grabbing more audience that people’s home movies, then professional content creators in general are in for a world of hurt. Viacom, News Corp, ABC and the rest can’t produce prime time for the price of a couple Mentos and a few liters of diet Coke.

Reader Comments


July 16, 2008 5:06 AM

Seriously?!... I think you've misconstrued what is happening.

It's not about assessing what the content is worth like you say... it's about deciding who is responsible for the copyright infringement that is clearly taking place when Viacom's content is being consumed without their blessing.

Google takes down copyright content, when alerted via the proper proceedures.

To put the burden of copyright infringement (by users) on Google... will ultimately put the burden of copyright infringment on all infrastructure providers (carriers, hosts, and the owners of websites).

Users must be made responsible.


July 16, 2008 5:25 AM

Mrs. Holahan, I don't have anything against Viacom or Viacom employees such as yourself, but I strongly feel that these kinds of articles should be handled by neutral third parties, rather then paid employees.
Otherwise it makes the website you posted it to ( in this case) look EXTREMELY bad, and then the website gets less traffic, and starts losing money. :(
This is very bad for the people who run this site! I hope you understand, and don't do this again, thanks.


July 16, 2008 6:07 AM

Whether you agree or not with the view of the good and evil expressed in this article, it is refreshing to read an anlysis that goes beyond the appearances of the truth, unlike the recent press coverage of the Viacom vs. Google discussions.... Thanks !


July 16, 2008 6:36 AM

I just think that Viacom is after the big cash chest that Google is sitting on. Known for its history of lawsuits its no surprise to see Viacom finding some "pretext" of suing Youtube.

I also parallels from the recent ruling on counterfeit sales on Ebay in which Ebay was not held liable for counterfeit sales on Ebay. In the same manner, it would be virtually impossible for Youtube to filter out the videos that are being uploaded and to determine whether these are copyrighted or not. For all the technology thats implemented, it still is a herculean task. Its the copyright owners responsibility to enforce that, not Googles. Youtube is just a medium, like a notice board. Viacom, surely knows this, but wants a pie of the Rich Google.
I dont agree with the author at all. Youtube is not a revenue generator as of today and has a long way to go before it starts making some money. So why sue it now?


July 16, 2008 7:19 AM

More people need to understand this argument. Thank you for spelling it out clearly and concisely.

Craig Busse

July 16, 2008 7:39 AM

This seems a curious argument -- and not only because it is strangely trusting of Viacom's intentions.

Whatever happened to the idea that an enterprise is entitled to keep private its proprietary information; i.e., the customer data that it collected for its own purposes and at its own expense? Why is Viacom entitled to YouTube's proprietary information? It would actually make more sense if it were for use in lawsuits. Then it would be a case of Viacom guarding its legal rights. Instead, we are being told that Viacom should have it because it could increase their revenue -- a business purpose like that of any other corporation wanting to know another corporation's secrets.

Very odd.


July 16, 2008 7:41 AM

Its all about the PR. Of course Google is going to make Viacom look like the bad guy, and why shouldn't they? This is nothing new, its business being business.


July 16, 2008 8:00 AM

"...professional content creators in general are in for a world of hurt..."

Yes exactly. The outcome of this case is irrelevant to that fact. It's simply economics. There exists an unlimited supply of digital content making the value zero. This is a harsh fact to accept for the middlemen media companies. The only thing they can do is try to artificially limit supply - hence the all out war on the internet. Companies like Time Warner and Comcast seeking to impose strict bandwidth limits - all to get you away from the computer and back on the couch - paying them for television again. Their efforts are in vain. No amount of lawsuits or advertising will convince people to keep exchanging a finite good (money) for and infinite good (digital media).


July 16, 2008 8:01 AM

Sure, I agree that Viacom should be paid for the viewing of its intellectual property. They are trying to claim, however, that everyone who watched the Daily Show on youtube, had they not had access to a free version, would have paid to watch it, either through advertising-sponsored clips online, or the purchase of a DVD. The reality is that the vast majority of viewers of Viacom's content would not have otherwise seen it at all (not to mention the majority are 5-second snippets that can be considered fair use depending on where they are embedded in a website). In fact, many of my friends started watching the Daily Show on TV only after seeing clips of it on YouTube. I would go so far as to say that averaged over all users, YouTube actually brings Viacom business.

Personally, if I want to show someone a clip of Bill Clinton saying "well I think I'd slit my throat" on the Daily Show, I'll look on YouTube. I'm not about to sit thru 30 seconds of advertisements on to watch a 6-second clip (a whole episode on the other hand, sure), and I think most of the kinds of people watching the Daily Show on youtube would agree with me.

wasnt me

July 16, 2008 8:05 AM

lets stat from the top.
it doesn't matter what Viacom plans to do with the data in question, the issue is much bigger than that. If Viacom gets said data that would set a very dangerous precedent on Privacy issue.
In addition once Viacom gets that data it nothing can prevent it from doing what ever it pleases with it (sell it, use it to track and sue users it thinks are in breach).
Google took the time collect said data that was generated on its own site, most users have no issues with that as long as data is kept internally.

as for videos on youtube that infringe copyright, all viacom has to do is send take down notices and if youtube/google do not remove said content then they have a case, neither users or google employees can identify copyrighter material (only copy righted owner can) and viacom doesn't this its its job to do that.


July 16, 2008 8:11 AM

1- google being responsible has to keep records for some time. But someone else forcing them by law to give it up is bad.

2-why does viacom need data linking users by name to their searches? Thats bad.

google fighting for its users - good.
so whats the point of this article again?

wasnt me

July 16, 2008 8:22 AM

(sry about double posting but i forgot to proofread 1st post before submitting it the 1st time)

lets stat from the top.
it doesn't matter what Viacom plans to do with the data in question, the issue is much bigger than that. If Viacom gets said data that would set a very dangerous precedent on Privacy issue.
In addition once Viacom gets that data nothing can be done to prevent it from doing what ever it pleases with it (sell it, use it to track and sue users it thinks are in breach, etc...)

Google took the time collect said data that was generated on its own sites, it have a privacy policy on all its sites and most users have no issue with that as long as it sticks with those policies. Also as per your article Viacom is using a lawsuit in order to get a free market study which is hardly ethical.

as for videos on youtube that infringe copyright, all viacom has to do is send take down notices (as per DMCA) and if youtube/google do not remove said content then Viacom has a case, neither youtube users or google employees can identify copyrighted material (only copyright owners can) and viacom doesn't think it's its job to do that.

P.S. gives me an XML error.


July 16, 2008 8:42 AM

So, basically this article is about how Viacom might only be doing the same thing google is (or maybe suing people exorbitant dollars for viewing their media fecal matter), and that makes Google the bad party.

Lady, how much is Viacom paying you to write this stuff?

Dennis Cary

July 16, 2008 8:51 AM

Having read this article by Catherine Holahan, I can't help but wonder if she has any working relationship with Viacom or is just hasn't followed the news or IT history for any length of time. If the RIAA will send cease and desist orders to the Girl Scouts of America over campfire songs, and sue single mothers over song downloads, why would anyone believe that those the in the video world would behave differently. I am certain that there some at viacom who would like the demographic data to increase their ad rates, and some who would like to use it to better select programming content, but you don't need individual user information for that. Viacom, like most every other corporations in the world today is run by men with little to no TRUE technology knowledge and they, like the music industry, allowed themselves to be "surprised" by the digital video delivery demand of today. How has the industry as a whole dealt with this? Well they didn't buy existing successful companies like you tube (google bought them), they instead decided to SUE the individuals thinking that this would scare the public OFF of file sharing and digital delivery sources, and back to good old cable and airwaves. For viacom's stated purposes, they only needed hit counts for the videos in question, and POSSIBLY geographic locations (north east or southwest for example) of the hits (that can be extrapolated from the IP address), but the only reason to get specific user information is to target them.

In this world where the Patriot Act has gutted the the Bill of Rights, and Corporations are holding every detail of our lives hostage (don't believe me, try getting Equifax to correct a mistake in their records!), it is good to see that Google and a few others are willing to take the legal hits to protect the individuals who support them. Now if google could just stop holding that data in the first place........but that is a rant for another day.

Ben Grey

July 16, 2008 8:58 AM

What? By the title it almost sounds like you are suggesting Google "is" being evil. But in the article it doesn't appear you make the case that Google is being evil or MTV isn't. Headlines... sheesh.

Outside of that. I do believe Viacom, ABC, HBO, and any other studio should be paid for there content. I'd love to see professional content on youtube legally. My personal viewing of content is likely 10 / 1. 10 homebrewed diet coke mentos talking dog videos to 1 1997 in living color, more cowbell heroes.


July 16, 2008 9:16 AM

if you believe that once Viacom had users IP addresses and the videos they watched that they would just do nothing with that data I think you kidding youself. If they got it once this lawsuit was resolved they would use it to go after people, they are greedy and cant help it.


July 16, 2008 11:03 AM

So I assume that when the logs reveal that all of the free advertising that YouTube provides for Viacom's shows actually drives audience to the broadcasts, that you would then back a demand by Google for a slice of Viacom's own advertising revenue? Maybe Google should be demanding all of Viacom's audience research data to bolster their claim to Viacom's ad income.

P. Lee

July 16, 2008 11:10 AM

Nice! Jeremy would be proud of what your wrote.

You forgot to add just how much Viacom is asking for their "placement" on YouTube.

Personally, I would start rooting their product out and counter-promote their competitors. Besides, they are becoming more irrelevent every day and every second.

Remember Metallica? That's Viacom!


July 16, 2008 11:54 AM

1) How can you be so sure of what Viacom planned to do with the user data that they would have collected?

2) They do not need specific usernames or IP addresses to prove the case of how they stated it. There would have to be some kind of unique key to see what a user did, but username and IP are not needed for their stated purpose.

3) I'm not convinced that all Viacom wants is a "piece of the advertising pie" I believe if that's what they wanted, there are easier and cheaper ways to attain that.

john smith

July 16, 2008 12:06 PM

funny how the article references mtv as an allusion to viacom.. "candy unlimited, under the parent company of exxon, leaked oil into the pacific." well we all know candy unlimited can't be to blame.


July 16, 2008 1:12 PM

Not much more to say than this... this article is LAME (including the headline) and shows much ignorance to the real issue at hand here... like most already mentioned on here. Ahhhh yay for free-of-speech :P


July 16, 2008 1:23 PM

I never understand the anti-Viacom argument. Content creators - whether a painter in a studio somewhere or a big media company should be allowed to decide what to do with their "art," correct? We all agree on that, right? They created something; If they want to give it away or charge a million dollars for it, that's their call. Google has built a system in which people can steal that content, so they should be held accountable. How is it "evil" of Viacom to assert a right I think we would all agree they should have?


July 16, 2008 1:57 PM

Viacom should be paying Google for getting their garbage out there for them.

If I wanted to watch Viacom's crap, I'd turn on the TV. Youtube would be fine without their worn out content and the best stuff is the original stuff contributed by users.

On the flip side, Google doesn't do anything to protect user data for privacy reasons, so they're not heroes. They do it because they are data miners and they don't want to share.


July 16, 2008 2:10 PM

Let me start off by saying that I don't consider either of these corporations "evil", a word that's been used a lot about this lawsuit. That said, here's my opinion:

I doubt that Viacom could actually use Google's records for their own profit. Nothing in business is free, and Google could probably countersue them if they tried. There may even be court fines for using subpoenaed records for your own profits.

We tend to think of media as free because it shows up on our TV screens (and YouTube) free of charge. It isn't. It takes billions of dollars to build media content, not to mention a massive, organizational structure. Viacom deserves to be paid for its revenue.

Yes, YouTube clips may actually bring in viewers, and I do think that, if and when these lawsuits settle down, legal clips may be posted, but at Viacom's discretion. YouTube users have absolutely no legal discretion to post copyrighted materials on YouTube.

This lawsuit has brought up a simple fact: YouTube is broken. It never worked in the first place. Yes, its popular, but its deveopers have yet to make it profitable. While they're trying to do that, what little revenue the site brings in is threatened by these big media lawsuits.

YouTube could be the first pop-culture fad that dies of monetary starvation.


July 16, 2008 2:22 PM

Please, Viacom asked for Google's own source code... how is that part of their right ??!!


July 16, 2008 2:28 PM

I do not believe Google should be liable for the infringement. As an independent artist, I am the only one looking out for myself. I don't expect Google or anyone else to do that for me.

BUT I think we've discovered that self-policing by users is a pretty effective way to get things done. Just as users can upload copyright-infringing materials, they should be able to flag the same. So I do take it as an act of bad faith that the FLAG button on youtube does not have an option for 'copyright infringement.'


July 16, 2008 2:29 PM

I agree that pro content producers are in for a world of hurt. For instance, just check out's new HD channel. The user produced content there beats the crap on television in quality any given day.

The issue at stake here is a dispute between Google and Viacom on the value of Viacom content on Youtube. And Viacom is going to be sorry when it turns out funny cat videos on youtube bag more views than the Colbert report videos.


July 16, 2008 2:35 PM

ViaCom and similar companies have no right to demand private user viewing data. All they need is the popularity of the videos they are interested in (hits, ratings etc.). They know this, but the reason companies like Viacom want the entire personal data of the users is to make them vary with lawsuits, think and come up with more unethical ways to make more money from that data.

Google does a good job, protecting the data and is one of the few companies to take such a hit. Hurray for almost made Ron Paul the running candidate.


July 16, 2008 2:35 PM

Way off. This is not an accurate statement of the law of copyright, the facts surrounding the case, the legal theories of remedies, or the theory of the case which Viacom is pursuing. Epic Failure as an article.


July 16, 2008 2:44 PM

You completely missed what's being discussed, but to follow that logic I think you need to compare Google with the videotape.

Not a Rookie

July 16, 2008 2:47 PM

I'll give you the anti-Viacom argument in 3 seconds. If a content creator creates something (for example a doorknob) he has the right to how much he will charge for it. Once I buy the doorknob if I want to put it on my ceiling and call it a decoration, it is mine to do, not the creators. And if my neighbor shows up and likes the doorknob on my ceiling and decides to do it himself, that is neither my nor the doorknob maker's concern. He can purchase the doorknob from the doorknob maker and do whatever he wants with it. If the doorknob maker does not like my idea of putting a doorknob on my ceiling and asks my neighbor not to do that, he can. But once my neighbor has purchased a doorknob (possibly from a different doorknob maker) it is his choice what to do with it. And I still have no say about whether or not he puts it on his ceiling. Nor can I charge him for doing what I thought of first.


July 16, 2008 2:48 PM

I agree with technor. Youtube is the medium. You cant sue the oil paint company because someone printed a copyrighted version of your painting using that particular oil from that oil paint company. Viacom just wants a piece of the pie, as all companies do. Viacom is out to make money... not to protect and create copyrighted material. That is the medium (again, there's that word) for Viacom making money. All companies are about making money. If you think this ISNT about making money, then you probably need to go take business classes at you local college.

Rookie dumbass

July 16, 2008 2:52 PM

Rookie, your comparison of Viacom to a painter is so flawed and stupid. If that were the case then Google would be like an art gallery, and everyone who peered inside its windows would be considered stealing your painter's content.

Artists create art to be SEEN, not to be regulated and controled by some conglomerate. Some up and coming artists owe their publcitity and sites like Youtube. Then they make it big, get signed to a business, which then tries to control and squeeze as much profit as they can from their artists creations.

This suit and subsequent article just proves how greedy Viacom is. I'm not saying Google isnt greedy, atleast they don't profit from the users though.


July 16, 2008 2:56 PM

This article is extremely biased. You obviously believe Viacom is in the right and Google is in the wrong. Companies will always operate in their best interests, and neither is "evil" for doing what they're doing.

Reading a blog post, making an inference on it, and writing a polarized opinion on it isn't the best way to make an article. I would have preferred a more intelligent analysis of the comparison between Google's and Viacom's actions to protect their property, instead of a biased article on "good" and "evil."


July 16, 2008 3:21 PM

The thing that I find funny and sad at the same time is this. Viacom sued Youtube once Google bought it out. They did not do it before Google bought it but once the Sale went through for Google like a week or two later They get Sued. To me this tells a story of one companies Greed that company being Viacom only Suing when its most profitable for them. No point in suing Youtube when some guy in a garage owned it but Google they are in with NASA they are the largest search engine lets sue um before they can do anything to stop our content from being on their site.

r. decline

July 16, 2008 3:30 PM

F*** Viacom. and hopefully they are much smarter than to think that if i watch a comedy central clip on you tube then i won't want to watch a show or visit a viacom website. (something this article seems to suggest) its not like all usage stops at youtube. fact is these behemoth media companies can't figure out what to do with the internet so until they do their plan seems to be to clamp down on everything. hey why not go after the ISP's? after all they provide the connection to this haven of copywrite material. what about the computer companies? and then to say you don't want to go after individuals is a bit hard to swallow with all the file sharing lawsuits against individuals.


July 16, 2008 3:31 PM

Fuck this author. You're crazy this isn't Cuba! Go duck yourself asshole

I Think Ron Works For Google

July 16, 2008 3:45 PM

BusinessWeek is owned by McGraw-Hill, an independent publicly traded company. Catherine Holahan is a BusinessWeek employee. How that makes her a Viacom employee Ron The MisInformer is going to have a hard time explaining.


July 16, 2008 3:51 PM

Viacom won't sue users. The reason corporations always settle lawsuits outside of court is not because they did something wrong and know they would lose, but because they don't want to spend time, money, and PR on a lengthy trial. The Viacom execs know that suing users would bring a severe backlash because YouTube use is more mainstream than, say, downloading illegal MP3s.


July 16, 2008 3:59 PM

This article is obvious pandering to Viacom. Google's actions have shown that they are working to protect the people, while Viacom is just out for more money.

Google Fanboys

July 16, 2008 4:15 PM

I thought Apple Fanboys were bad. Research facts. Discover how easily Google manipulates you into things like disregarding reason and reality.


July 16, 2008 4:23 PM

Viacom and MTV are just bitter Google outbid them in the YouTube purchase. Plain and simple.


July 16, 2008 4:25 PM

Re: "Artists create art to be SEEN." Maybe. Some do, some don't. Some create art because they have to and don't care if anyone ever sees. Some artists create art to make money. Some to get girls. My point is that owners of content (let's set aside the word "art" as it's clearly loaded) should have the right to control what they do with it.

Re: the Doorknob example. You're mixing your metaphors: we are talking about intellectual property, not something physical. By your reasoning, you would have the right to buy a movie and then show it in movie theaters across the nation for free. You most definitely do not have that right.


July 16, 2008 4:44 PM

First of all, Google did not build YouTube, they bought it after it was already built. Second, YouTube is not "a system in which people can steal ... content." Instead, YouTube is a system in which people can upload and share videos and video clips with others.

Due to the nature of copyright law, each and every video uploaded to YouTube is copyrighted. In some cases, the uploader is not the one who owns the copyright, does not have permission from the copyright holder to share this material, and cannot claim a fair-use exemption under the law. Presumably, Viacom believes that these unauthorized uploads are far more popular than any legally uploaded videos, that Google knows these videos are unauthorized, and that YouTube's financial success depends almost entirely on all these unauthorized uploads.

Google, on the other hand, maintains that there is no way for it to know whether a copyright holder has or has not authorized an upload. Permission is granted, denied, or revoked far outside of the uploading process and cannot be determined from the content of the video file itself. For example, the so-called "Star Wars Kid" video could qualify as an unauthorized upload just as much as a clip from "The Daily Show". The only difference is whether the copyright holder is an individual or a corporation. In either case, Google maintains that determining whether or not the appropriate permission has been granted is the copyright holder's responsibility, not Google's, and that the DMCA gives the copyright holder a well-defined method for having an unauthorized video removed.

Viacom's "evil" is not in asserting its rights, but rather in its attempt to pass off that responsibility to Google.


July 16, 2008 4:49 PM

Viacom sucks. Google sucks more. THe fact that they store the data of what I search so they can profit on it and I dont get paid pisses me off. Moreover, they have used some extremely shady tactics over the years to procure wealth (Im not against that, just the tactics) at the expense of everyone else.

Why should Google profit from user generated content or copyrighted content? They do, on every tiny thing. They provide nothing except search yet they make BILLIONS of dollars on other peoples content and what do the user's get? Nothing.

Fuck Google.


July 16, 2008 5:00 PM


Nobody is disputing Viacom's claim to ownership. All they need to do is tell Google something is being stolen, and it gets removed from the site.

What is at question here, among other things, is why this suit is being filed in the first place. There are existing measures in place for Viacom or any other content generator to protect their rights.



July 16, 2008 5:26 PM

The part of this article I had the biggest problem with was this statement: "That’s important not only for when Viacom ultimately licenses its content to Google or another Web site (Hulu perhaps?), but also for its conversations with advertisers about the value of its own online properties. "

I think you are a bit out of the loop here from what I read, Viacom was in Talks with Google prior to the Lawsuit to license it's content for use on Youtube, they didn't like what Google offered and decided to drop negotionations and then jumped it bed with Hulu.

Despite what is posted here they are already licensing content to Hulu, just go to the website, John Stewart and Colbert latest shows are on the front page.

The big huff I have with Viacom is after they jumped in bed with Hulu they decided to sue Google, for a huge chunk of money.

Why shouldn't google profit off of providing a place where people can post home made videos for FREE? Previously if you wanted to put a video on the internet for others to view freely you would have to pay for your own web hosting and then know how to set up all that functionality in order to display the video.
The functionality has been put in place to stream line that process and allow for people to easily share videos with one another, why shouldn't they profit? Since the time and effort was put into developing such a place, and as we all know time is money.


July 16, 2008 5:28 PM

Google prints money by displaying advertising on the digital Intellectual property of f other companies...this is their entire revenue model. They don’t want to hand over data to anyone which proves how much trademarked intellectual property is viewed daily on you tube. That is the only thing that matters here. Google came up with the expression “don’t be evil” the same day they spent 30 million dollars getting large studios to depict actors “googling” things in the movies. If you don’t think they are set out on a course for world domination, you are have not yet worked in the publishing, media, advertising or business world.


July 16, 2008 5:29 PM

Simply put, you can burn in hell. Once I paid for a particular media, I want to do whatever I feel like doing with it, short of redistributing the whole derivative work.

Since when is copyright no longer about plagiarism?


July 16, 2008 5:38 PM

"Google maintains that determining whether or not the appropriate permission has been granted is the copyright holder's responsibility, not Google's, and that the DMCA gives the copyright holder a well-defined method for having an unauthorized video removed."

Yep - that's the rub. The DMCA is not as clear as most people think. The law states that YouTube/Google must:

not have actual knowledge that the material or an activity using the material on the system or network is infringing (512(c)(1)(A)(1)).
not be aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent (512(c)(1)(A)(2)).

So does that mean Google has to prove that they dont know that ANY infringing of Viacom content is going on? Or does it mean the SPECIFIC infringment?

No one knows. That's the Billion dollar question (literally).

Rajat Garg

July 16, 2008 6:27 PM

I think Viacom or other digital media company that are so protective of their content, need to lock it on a old tape drive and never show it - just in case somebody copies it :-)



July 16, 2008 6:48 PM

@ Josh "Simply put, you can burn in hell. Once I paid for a particular media, I want to do whatever I feel like doing with it, short of redistributing the whole derivative work."

What if the entire media is a ten minute clip? Google allows you to put up the entire thing, so you are, in fact
"redistributing the whole derivative work."


July 16, 2008 6:58 PM

I can't believe how many posts pro Viacom
Must be the same employees in charge with "correcting" the entries in the Wikipedia


July 16, 2008 7:01 PM

"But, here’s the reality. Viacom isn’t interested in suing YouTube users."

How do I know that? Why should I trust them? I believe it when Viacom says they mainly want to prove numbers of views of their holdings, but that doesn't mean they won't come up with other uses for this data once they get it.

"Honestly, Viacom may not even be all that interested in suing Google."

Wonder why we're having this conversation then.


July 16, 2008 7:13 PM

For once I am in agreement with the majority of posts about this article. The problem with the article is that it feels like a paid service announcement. Are we to believe that Viacom simply wants to prove their point, and nothing further? According to this author, yes, we are. So what if Viacom IS right, and Youtube viewers do in fact watch more copywritten content than user-created content? I am supposed to faithfully believe that it will end there? Ok, call me an idiot while you're at it. Wake up Catherine Holahan! This isn't some scientific experiment where Viacom is nearly trying to prove a hypothesis; they're seeking money! Viacom wants compensation for their material and the whole public outcry over this is due to the fact that (if they were given Youtube user information) there are no laws in place to stop Viacom from suing each individual offender.

I am very disappointed that BusinessWeek would employ such a poorly informed and nearsighted journalist to their staff.


July 16, 2008 10:57 PM

all you guys are just lured by CH for BW to have hits on their site and rant about it.


July 16, 2008 11:26 PM

"Google is not a hero of user privacy. It collects the data in the first place"

Huh? There's nothing sinister about collecting data. Virtually all websites do. If you sign up, you are VOLUNTEERING data, some of it personal (such as your email address). If you choose to trust YouTube/Google with that information, after having read their privacy policy, then does NOT mean you trust the rest of world with the same information.

If Google had handed that information over to another company without a fight, it would have been a massive violation of trust. They didn't. That makes them at least a champion of user privacy, if not a hero.

"in part, to personalize the YouTube experience and, in part, to sell ads. Viacom wants the data, ultimately, for a similar purpose: to generate more online advertising revenue."

The fact that Viacom's intentions are benign, or that their usage of the data would have been similar to Google's, is completely irrelevant. The important thing is only that Google didn't hand that information to strangers.


July 17, 2008 12:13 AM

Here'd the problem with Viacom's plan. They want to adjust their business plan as little as possible.
People aren't willing to pay for things anymore, like movies. Many people skip the $15+ per person to go see Hancock in theaters and spend the afternoon downloading it and enjoying it in their underwear. Same for PC games.
They need to adjust, and blaming google isn't going to save a slow moving business plan.

Christopher Franklin

July 17, 2008 1:00 AM

I think Viacoms new strategy is trying to get as much free cash as possible. Lets see:

1. They recevied $150 Million from Toshiba and Microsoft to support HD DVD during the Blu Ray VS HD DVD war

2. Viacom gets $500 million from Microsoft to use its text ads and other advertisements on their website and other stuff they hold

3. They sue Google for $1 billion for illegal copyright.

What else do you want Paramount?? If people were more aware of your corporate greed people would be more likely to not support you.

Am I mistaken that the Digital MIllenium Act says that Internet companies are not responsible for what users upload to their websites?

Email me if you wish.

James D

July 17, 2008 2:25 AM

Holahan differently sounds like a Viacom shill. Isn't it nice that she has empathy for Viacom. Are you going to use this article in your resume if you ever apply to work at some Viacom company.

Who's to say what Viacom wanted? I think it's more reasonable to think their number one priority was to take a look at Google's intellectual property and try to steal it.


July 17, 2008 8:03 AM


1. Is the movie channel owned by viacom?

2. Is cbs owned or in part by viacom?

3. Is showtime owned or in part by viacom?



July 17, 2008 11:03 AM

Thanks for the biased point of view. I hope they put something extra in your paycheck.


July 17, 2008 11:37 AM

You obviously lack understanding on the topics of technology, business, and law. Google collected this data? Yes it did. But that's what web servers do. They make logs. That's what good web designers do. They use cookies and databases to store info on THEIR users to make their experience on the website more enjoyable and easy to navigate. I can't believe you are in agreeance with Viacom. A crap business now, that seems to be run by executives that have no idea how to use the internet to make money. The money they are spending on this lawsuit could be better used to build a streaming server of their own. Please do not write another tech article. I don't care who told you it was good. It isn't.


July 17, 2008 12:22 PM

Here's a thought. Viacom should do it's own research and look up all the shows on youtube and take a look at all the views on them. Just because Viacom doesn't plan on suing users doesn't necessarily mean they won't.


July 17, 2008 12:23 PM

Viacom is just run by the greedy elite. The fans who PAY for cable or satellite are the ones who are uploading it. Should it Viacom's content? I mean technically since it is a daily show, if you post clips five years ago makes it outdated, right?
Most of the time it's just clips of jokes. This is free advertising from the fans, but no, now we have to sue Google (who still cant make money from YOUTUBE).
And yes there is the VERY real possibility of users being sued just by watching it.


July 17, 2008 12:54 PM

Viacom needs the searches to make it case.Let me give you some cases:
1) If you sell milk and you get 50 gallons a month. How much you sell? Obvious 50 gallons. Anyone going after that may ask about it but since you don't have they'll no show up as sells (ratings on current clips will not tell the whole story). Now if you decide to make notes on how many times people go and find no milk then you can increase your inventory and have more milk for them(Viacom can do this to prove the value of his videos because they own it and they can post as many as they want).
2) Same line or reasoning when somebody goes to Walmart looking for milk they usually put it in the back so you can to walk thru all the store to get to it. Very likely that you'll end up buying something else(A lot of people go to YouTube looking for copyright material and then after they watch it they decide to see some silly amateur clip). To prove this you need the searches of everyone.
3) Once you go thru 1) and 2) then you can make your case to advertisers and the court that people go there first(ie. the first search they on x day was for copyright material then they started searching for some fools video) looking for copyright material and that makes your case that you should be getting a piece of the advertising. Then you can charge the right advertisement for you content. Viacom wants its content on YouTube don't think they don't but they want a snippet with a link to their site so they can make money on both sites that's what they want. Must people now YouTube but they don't know the legal sites to watch the full clips. I think YouTube knows that but they don't want to admit it so they keep all the money (even if its not profitable right they do get money).


July 17, 2008 1:18 PM

If they just want to see how many people come into YouTube and for what... then they DON'T NEED private data. Anonymous data would work fine. There is no need for specific IPs, no need for user names.

So why would Viacom demand user's private data?

Answer that please.


July 17, 2008 2:15 PM

Catherine, you are as full of hot air as the Bush administration. The lengths you have gone to flat out lie in this article is stunning. I feel sorry for the people who don't live in the tech industry when they hear this amount of FUD and believe it. You're a complete disgrace to the tech sector, truth, fair play and the real American way that existed before before scumbag low life's like you were in kindergarten. Please, go buy a gun put it in your mouth and pull the trigger, the world will be a better place.

Bill Tropo

July 17, 2008 2:18 PM

"Honestly, Viacom may not even be all that interested in suing Google."

WTF, VIACOM IS CURRENTLY SUEING GOOGLE! And it's really funny that Viacom waited untill Google own YouTube...deeper pockets. Viacom is total scum. They use and abuse people, step on anyones back to make a buck. This is the 21 centery, companies liek Viacom are dead, we have a new way of communication, a new way of exchanging ideas and it make them crap there pants. The only problem is moronic prehistoric Judges that don't get how technology work.


July 17, 2008 3:34 PM

This has nothing to do with VIACOM using or not using my data nefariously. It has to do with the fact that IT IS MY DATA.

By using Youtube with a username, we have an implied agreement, that YouTube will collect some information. But I DON'T have that agreement with VIACOM. They have no right and I have not given permission for them to access that data.

The only reason they should be able to access that data is with a compelling criminal cause. Which they absolutely don't have. This is a fishing expedition, and you can say they will or won't do this or that, but that's crappola. Once they have the data they can do anything they want.

What is to stop any marketing organization from using a source of user data, just as a short cut way of accumulating a copy of that data.

VIACOM is clearly on a fishing expedition, and that I'm pretty sure is against the Constitution. You can't access private data simply because you want to. There has to be a sound, reasonable, and justifiable Probable Cause and a reasonable certainty of what you will find there.

VIACOM has none of this.


July 17, 2008 3:54 PM

How did you get this job? Viacom employees now bloggers... I'm sorry, we don't believe you, you need more people. Do seriously want us to feel bad for a billion dollar company as Viacom who is just pissed because they envy the traffic youtube gets and the inevitability of the death of broadcast TV because the web killed it, the same way video killed the radio star

Hon. Estly

July 17, 2008 4:18 PM

What possessed you to write this shamelessly biased article. Most of the good points have been made already. I just want to advise you to at least put your biases forth with more wit, so that it does not make you look like a nitwit.

Bin Tian

July 17, 2008 7:22 PM

I have stopped watching TV 4 years ago, because there are too much commercials. When I got bored, I visit YouTube and watch dumb people doing stupid things. That's what got YouTube started, and that's what drives my traffic to YouTube. Viacom? Who? I don't give a crap about if Viacom's staff is on youtube or not. The reason YouTube is successful is because they are the first to provide a functional website where people can post silly staffs for the world to see.


July 17, 2008 8:20 PM

They wait for Google to buy YouTube to sue because Google controls the advertisement money Viacom wants from its content. Advertisers now the first place go to look for something is Google/YouTube not a Viacom site that some people don't even know exists so they pay Google a lot money for that. What should do is stop using other people hard work to make money and nobody would sue them. In Europe they'll loose once the EU Comission start looking into their share market and business practices like not taking websites from their index when the sites ask them and not respecting the no index files on some websites just to say to advertisers we have a bigger index users will use us.


July 18, 2008 2:03 AM

A few years back Viacom and Youtube were competitors because was bringing in as much advertising revenue as Youtube at the time.

Viacom lost the fight, and the only site which brings good amount of users it has is, which in fact failed completely comparing to the rival Youtube.

Viacom provides very good content but technology failed to deliver that content, so its running around, trying to hurt Youtube.

Though I agree with Viacom on this, Youtube respects no copyright. In fact, they take away the copyright of the artist and reserve the right to resell it. This is very dangerous because people view them as "the cool guys".

There is nothing stopping Youtube from re-selling the content without paying the artist.

Viacom on the other hand have purchased a few sites, which are similar to Youtube, and such sites allow the artist to keep copyright. Makes sense doesn't it??? "You made this video, therefore you keep the copyright and the company can't resell it or own it."

So I don't think Viacom is going after google because it wants money, its more concerned with keeping itself as the rightful copyright owner. They want to make sure their business keeps producing content and has the ability to do so.


July 18, 2008 7:46 AM

This article doesn't change anything, this was all known to anyone who had read up on the subject before hand, viacom still went to far and google was in the right I'm glad they were able to obscure my data from viacom.


July 18, 2008 11:45 AM

This whole fiasco is but one more reason for me to get all my content from BitTorrent, Netflix, and the shared hard drives of friends. Viacom and other content providers have chosen not to get with the program, so the program has left them behind -- in my case, permanently.

Within my network of about 15 people, there is no movie, show, or song we don't have, and we're happy to share. The only people who get my money are local and independent musicians and filmmakers who have nothing to do with the **AA and the TV networks.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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