Here’s Your 15 Minutes And Your DMCA Notice

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It didn’t take long for user-generated content to translate to user-generated profit. But as the giants have their weird litigious and incestuous thing going on both in the courtroom and in the boardroom, YouTube users aren’t just getting the shaft, they’re getting mud kicked in their faces.

Here's Your 15 Minutes And Your DMCA Notice
Here’s Your 15 Minutes And Your DMCA Notice

Have a seat. This could take a minute.

A YouTube user submits his video to YouTube and it becomes popular to the tune of millions of views. And the user gets, well, his 15 minutes.

According to YouTube’s terms of use, YouTube gets the rights to sell that video to whomever they like. The user hasn’t forfeited rights to the video, just rights to profit from the upload. YouTube and the user both hold rights to the video as long as the video is on the website.

However, it’s unlikely that the user has a connection to media powerhouses like, say, Viacom, which slapped YouTube’s parent company Google with a billion-dollar copyright infringement lawsuit as soon as the ink was dry on the acquisition papers.

Admittedly, nearly a year later, you can still find virtually any music video you want on YouTube (Viacom owns MTV and VH1) – in fact, YouTube’s pretty much the MTV of the Internet. So Viacom’s concern about their intellectual property is understandable.

What many have taken issue with so far though, is the company’s overzealous pressing of its rights. Viacom sends out DMCA takedown notices like AOL used to send out free CDs. YouTube has blindly complied with the notices, removing content whether or not it was actual infringement in efforts to protect itself.

This led to the MoveOn.org laying some Fair Use bait for Viacom, and a subsequent lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that forced an admission from the media giant that there is, indeed, such a thing as Fair Use. In fact, much of Viacom programming, like Comedy Central’s "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" rely on it.

As does another show: "Web Junk."

"Web Junk" is a show that runs on VH1 featuring the week’s most popular viral video from the Internet. Much, nearly all, of the content on the show comes from you-know-where.

Now, the irony would be much too sublime if Viacom was violating YouTube’s terms of use that prohibit transmitting YouTube videos in a non-streaming format for commercial use without YouTube’s permission. No, we’ll assume Viacom licensed the videos through YouTube like they were supposed to.

Which means, again, YouTube and Google, who are being sued by Viacom, are also making money from Viacom, who is also making money from YouTube content while the uploader gets his 15 minutes.

But wait it gets worse.

Christopher Knight has a word for one of Viacom’s latest actions: "chutzpa." It’s a Yiddish word, if you didn’t know, for "unbelievable gall or audacity." Knight’s video was viewed a few hundred thousand times on YouTube before being featured on "Web Junk."

He didn’t complain, according his blog post about it, and thought Aries Spears’ commentary was funny. He posted a clip from the episode featuring the commentary on his YouTube video back on YouTube.

You can guess what happened next.

Knight writes, "So Viacom took a video that I had made for non-profit purposes and without trying to acquire my permission, used it in a for-profit broadcast. And then when I made a YouTube clip of what they did with my material, they charged me with copyright infringement and had YouTube pull the clip.

"Folks, this is, as we say down here in the south, "bass-ackwards".

Well, that’s one way to put it. Another way might be to suggest that Web 3.0 comes with some user content rights.

Here’s Your 15 Minutes And Your DMCA Notice
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  • http://tian.addr.com MekhongKurt

    This would be funny — IF it weren’t so disgusting. Especially Knight’s experience. Hell, he would be well within his moral rights to bite back, dragging those, um, so-and-so’s into court.

    This is beyond belief. A very few times other webmasters have used something of mine on their for-profit websites, and I haven’t minded a bit — hey, every bit of boost helps. (And they invariably gave credit and a link to my site.) And I’ve not heard a peep of protest from them when I’ve crowed about it and used something from their piece back on my own site. That’s just friendly back-scratching, in my view.

    There are legitimate complaints, of course, but I’m not comfortable with holding a site like YouTube.com responsible; doing so reminds me of U.S. courts holding gun manufacturers responsible for some criminal using one of thir weapons during a crime. Hey, if I buy a big wrench at Sears then use it to beat somebody to death, Sears is responsible and ought to pay big bucks, right??? Or maybe one of the carmakers needs to cough up serious dough if I’m in one of their products and deliberately run someone over. Let’s make it even more ludicrous. Say I use some tissue (something such as the trademarked Kleenex) to stuff up someone’s throat and nostrils, causing that person to suffocate. Bingo! Kleenex, or whoever, has to fork over the mullah.

    You folks at Viacom, *find* a life in this context. Protect your artists, etc., but hassling Knight is way, way over the top.

    Kurt T. Francis
    Bangkok, Thailand

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