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March 13, 2007

Is Viacom Being Hypocritical When It Comes to Suing Google/YouTube?

By Li Evans

Viacomlogo Did you know that Viacom is suing YouTube's parent company, Google?  I thought you might have.  Unless you were spending the day without access to the internet, radio or TV, it has been very hard to miss.  Techmeme's front page was completely filled with bloggers covering this story, from all angles.  All angles except the one that I kept asking myself.  That angle was "what about all those other sites out there that have Viacom material on them and are doing the same darn thing Google/YouTube is?"

I'm not an expert for either side of the Viacom/Google-YouTube suit, but if this is an effort to zealously enforce Viacom's copyrights, why are they being so selective?  Well we all know why, it's because Viacom wants the press and notoriety of being the first to sue the newly merged YouTube-Google since the acquisition went through.  They want to be seen as the one to teach Google a "lesson" that they can just push companies around into submitting to their will, all for the sake of "eyeballs & george washingtons."

Comedycentral I just find this selectiveness, very opportunistic and makes me really question Viacom's tactics.  Especially when you can go to a number of sites and find plenty of other clips from a broad range of their properties.  From music videos, Comedy Central Show clips (like The Daily Show, Mind of Mencia and South Park) to clips from Nickelodeon exclusive children's shows, you can find all sorts of video clips being shared.  These clips are on any number of sites that share just like YouTube does, or don't allow sharing, but just viewing.  All of these sites have something in common:

  1. These are infringing on Viacom's trademarks (just like Viacom is claiming Google is)
  2. These are making a profit by infringing on Viacom's trademark properties by ads displayed on their sites (just like Viacom is claiming Google is)

Let's take a look at a Viacom's Comedy Central property since it seems that Comedy Central clips seem to be the most uploaded to YouTube, I decided to do some poking around for South Park clips.  I went out to some popular video sharing sites and easily found a lot of video clips of this show being shared, and these were on sites that don't have deals like Joost does with Viacom.  I then did a search for "watch South Park online", and found a bunch of sites that had whole episodes and seasons of videos hosted or linked to that you could watch very easily.   All of these sites had some type of advertising around them from Adsense to banners and popups at a very annoying level.

Dailymotionsouthpark Groupersouthpark
Peekvidsouthpark Allsouthpark

So, why just Google?  I guess Google's got this huge target on their back now, and prior to the acquisition, YouTube didn't have a whole lot of money in their coffers.  We can all speculate the reasons, Viacom can claim what they want, but when they choose to be selective and only go after one company when there's a lot more doing the same thing, isn't that hypocritical? 

What are your thoughts?

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