Is Viacom’s YouTube Lawsuit A Smokescreen?

    May 10, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Groklaw has the whole lawsuit and response posted in their legalese glory online, and asks a question about Viacom’s involvement with Joost.

The genesis of the Viacom versus YouTube and Google story has created an interesting pathway from aggrieved content owner to aggressive digital media competitor. Groklaw took a look at the issues, and wondered if Viacom’s complaint rang hollow.

Viacom smacked Youtube with a billion-dollar lawsuit after negotiations with Google over licensing content fell through. Three months later, Viacom announced they would be part of the next financing round for Joost.

That round dropped $45 million into Joost’s piggy bank, and more importantly was accompanied by the news that no copyright problems are foreseen with Joost, thanks to its copyright licensing deals. Groklaw noted that Viacom mentioned Joost in its complaint against Google, while leaving out the bit about Viacom investing in Joost.

"And this Joost news does make my cynical side wonder: is this just another case of using the legal system as an anticompetitive business tactic?" asked Groklaw. "Even if it is, it raises some very serious questions, which will affect us all."

Those questions relate to fair use, the DMCA, and its safe harbor provisions. Lawrence Lessig’s comment, cited on Groklaw, said, "Viacom complains that YouTube shifts to it the burden of identifying infringing content. Not true. The DMCA does."

Until that piece of legislation changes, Viacom could be stuck with going after individual infringers, just as the RIAA has done with allegations of music piracy. "Maybe they’ve noticed how the RIAA is faring suing individual infringers who don’t have deep pockets," said Groklaw.

The RIAA has been beaten back in some of their actions, and even ordered to pay court costs for defendants. Viacom probably doesn’t want to go through the same experience.