Google says Viacom’s lawsuit against YouTube ‘threatens’ the Net
A $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit challenging YouTube’s ability to keep copyrighted material off its popular video-sharing site threatens how hundreds of millions of people exchange all kinds of information on the Internet, YouTube owner Google Inc. said.
Google’s lawyers made the claim in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan as the company responded to Viacom Inc.’s latest lawsuit alleging that the Internet has led to “an explosion of copyright infringement” by YouTube and others.
The back-and-forth between the companies has intensified since Viacom brought its lawsuit last year, saying it was owed damages for the unauthorized viewing of its programming from MTV, Comedy Central and other networks, including such hits as “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
In papers submitted to a judge late Friday, Google said YouTube “goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works.”
Google has said it will take the Viacom suit all the way to the Supreme Court. It has the deep pockets; I’m hoping it’s true.
LATER — Mike Masnick at Techdirt adds this useful clarification of the difference between content and communication:
What’s really left unsaid (but is an important point of conflict that we’re going to see more and more of over the next few years) is that this suit demonstrates the different ways that certain companies are viewing the internet (and how our existing laws are basically duct-taped together to account for this difference). Media companies still look on the internet as a content platform. That is, they think of it as a new broadcast medium. Most other folks recognize that the internet is a communications medium, and the focus should be on the ease of communication. That’s a problem for anyone who comes from a world of broadcast media, and it creates all sorts of problems for copyright law that is designed mainly to protect a broadcast-style media. Yet, when it comes to communication, the idea of using copyright to restrict content gets weird in a hurry.
In typical communication, copyright makes no sense. You don’t worry about copyright (even though it exists) when you send a letter or an email to a friend. You’re communicating, so of course the idea gets copied and repeated. In broadcast, the broadcast media model was always based on control and artificial scarcity. The DMCA safe harbors are kind of a kludge to deal with this difference, putting the onus on the communicator not to be breaking someone’s copyright, leaving the communications platform out of it. Yet from the perspective of the media companies, they view the internet as a broadcast media, and thus the YouTube’s of the world aren’t communication platform providers, but competing broadcasters. Hopefully, the court will recognize the reality that the internet was always a communications platform, and it’s just the broadcast media (who are late to the party, anyway) who are trying to force it to act more like a broadcast system.