Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Clash of the Morons

Viacom is suing YouTube for $1 billion dollars for copyright infringement. This lawsuit demonstrates stupidity on both sides.

YouTube is not funneling any of the revenue it makes back to the people posting videos or the copyright holders. Many other video sites already have functioning payment plans. Scott Kirsner has put together a list available here. It's not like YouTube has to invent things from scratch. They can easily see what's available in the marketplace and craft a plan based on what others have done.

Viacom is trying to hold back the future. The Hollywood studios tried to strangle TV and home video in the cradle. Not only did they fail, they soon turned around and embraced both of them as major revenue streams.

And Viacom is hurting itself. With no Viacom content on YouTube, people watching online video will be satisfied to watch somebody else's content. What kind of business model withholds a product from customers and encourages them to move to the competition?

I support the idea of copyright. I believe that a creator (or the company that finances a creator) has the right to profit from work. No argument there. However, I see copyright in different terms than it currently exists.

In a digital world, you cannot control copying. Why devote time and money to fighting it? Better to acknowledge that copying will occur and figure out a system where every time content is copied or viewed, the copyright holder makes money. That way, rather than fight copying you can encourage it and profit from it at the same time.

The only way to protect a secret is to not tell anyone. Once one other person knows it, you've lost control of the content. You cannot guarantee that the other person won't spread the information around. That's how it is now with digital copying. Once you've made your work available to the public, you cannot stop it from spreading around. You can copy a file with as little effort as whispering to a friend. When the cost to reproduce something is that low, there's no effective barrier to prevent it.

It's not going to be easy to set up a compensation system and I suspect that initially there's going to be disappointment over the amount of money that digital copying generates. Rather than these two giant companies wasting resources fighting over an antiquated law, they should be lobbying the government to adapt the copyright law to unlimited copying for the digital age.

Just like the studios eventually made peace with TV and the VCR, they're going to make peace with online video. Even a moron can see that. Why not skip the lawsuits and just get on with it?

4 comments:

Vladimir Buryak said...

Dear Mark!
My name is Vladimir Buryak, Omsk-city, Russia
I'm an entrepreneur, looking for any possibility to start a project on Russian market of entertainment dealing with animation films.
If you are ready to cooperate please call me back by e-mail:
burvl@yandex.ru
Thanks!

Ramon said...

Nah... It's just a coactive strategy to get a bigger share of the pie. Viacom might be full of idiot VPs, but I doubt they want to loose that train... they are just protesting to get the best seats.

Anonymous said...

there is no vision at viacom

This is sumner redstone, remember he spent billions buying Blockbuster, which now is worth almost nothing, because of his hindsight with the popularity of Netflix and the downloadable market.

he's a dinosaur think in ways that only he understand. Firings, lawsuits....etc....

Mitch K said...

YouTube is a very new company. They hit the lime-light in 2005, and then exploded faster than they could have ever hoped for, or even planned for. They're currently working on a way to share their revenue with the folks who create the content. Despite that, they should have created something sooner. I don't doubt that they'll actually deliver, though. (Article

As for Viacom: They make enough money already. I believe in copyrights too, but I don't think that's their beef. Viacom sees that people are getting a crapload of entertainment from the internet, and they're not making any cash off of it. In my opinion, Viacom can go suck bark from a tree. These big companies are nothing but greedy money-hungry jerks that just want to squash everything. Don't believe me? Look what happened to radio and television and newspaper. The internet is our last bit of freedome, with user-generated content. It goes from one person to another -- no middle-man, no filters, no target audiences or focus groups.