In my law of public communication class we just finished our section on copyright law, and when I saw this article on the Bulldog Reporter's Daily' Dog by Frank Zeccola, it reminded me of our class discussion about the YouTube-Viacom case. I find this case so interesting because it proves that legislation can never catch up with technology. As soon as a law passes making such-and-such illegal, tech-savvy consumers just find a way around it. That's not to say that copyright doesn't serve an important purpose for society. It exists to add creativity in the public domain by giving authors incentives to create new works, thereby improving and benefiting society as a whole. (On a quick side note, purchasing movies and music is a good idea, and I'm fully for it.)
I guess I should back up a minute here and explain why this YouTube case is so interesting to me. When Google bought YouTube, they set aside somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million knowing that as soon as the deal was made, the litigation would start pouring in because now the copyright holders have some big bucks to go after.
Like Kaleel Sakakeeny said in the article, if Viacom is smart, they'll go for a deal with Google/YouTube rather than trying to hold fast to copyright that is becoming increasingly hard to protect. These massive we-own-everything copyright holders like Viacom have been clinging steadfastly to the dying notion that they will and should have an iron grip over every little piece of copyrighted material. Thank goodness for fair use, right? Well, there's a fine line between fair use and infringement.
Now, like I said before, if Viacom was smart they would try to get some good PR out of this and use it as a image boost in the eyes of young people/college students like myself who are the primary users of YouTube. Instead of looking like a bunch of curmudgeons, they should try come out on the better end of this and win some favor in the eyes of students. Many students share the opinion that big companies are just greedy and are out to get everyone.
It's going to be impossible to maintain the tight control over everything, so why not try to just try to strike a profit-sharing deal, or find a more innovative way to adapt to their ever-changing environment. The social media are not going to away. Just like systems theory explains, organizations that don't adapt to their environment die, no matter how big and powerful and tough they think they are.
It's ironic in a way that this study found most of the copyright-infringing videos were hardly watched. That begs the question, what are they really suing for here?