Can Viacom Force YouTube to Implement Automatic Blocking of Video Uploads?

So we’ve all heard the news of Viacom demanding YouTube to take down 100,000+ videos of various shows including good stuff from Comedy Central. A Viacom executive is quoted as to saying, “People are waking up to the fact that there is no marketing advantage… There’s no novelty anymore.” Hmm… I love the use of the word “people,” as if Viacom can speak for anyone involved in marketing video content.

You have to be pretty uncreative to come to this conclusion when the fifth most popular Internet site in the world has shown your content over a billion times. Interestingly enough, CBS and NBC have found an advantageous way to partner with YouTube despite Viacom’s claim.

I think the truth comes out in Google’s response via David Eun, vice president of content partnerships, “They are more focused on the money they can make in the short term… We’re still more focused on innovation than the short-term economics.”

Whatever the case, too bad. YouTube is the first place I check for my daily dose of Jon Stewart. It’s just so dang convenient to watch the best clips on the laptop I’m on for other reasons than to schedule my time such that I can sit in front of a TV. But whatever, moving on…

I find it fascinating that Viacom tries to offer its video content for free on its own web sites (unsuccessfully), but is too stubborn to sign a deal with YouTube. Undoubtedly, the pending deal with YouTube must have been more than what it has now: nothing for its online video content shown to hardly anyone on its own sites. Viacom can’t seem to come to terms with YouTube being the place if you want your content seen by the web-savvy younger generation.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole ordeal: copyright law requires YouTube to remove content it doesn’t hold the rights to if it receives a complaint from the owner, which it has already done and continues to do all the time. But now Viacom has taken it a step further and has submitted to YouTube a list of all Viacom programs and ordered that Viacom content automatically be kept off the site in the future.

But the legal basis for Viacom to enforce its demands is pretty hazy. The law in place that takes care of these online copyrights requires sites like YouTube to take down content only once complaints are received. So can YouTube be forced to prevent the content from being put online in the first place?

Not so far, but who knows what crazy new laws may come out of this…

*Update* The New York Times has some spicy details on the Google / Viacom fall out, complete with unsubstantiated rumors of Google offering to pay Viacom $100 million per year.

  • Harn Soper

    Regardless what YouTube/Google is “required” to do under current law, good community behavior would be to do all in their power to agressivily respect content ownership regarldess if it is from ViaCom or from you and me as individuals. Personally, I’d like to be asked first before my creative efforts were usurped by someone else. In my generation, my parents drilled respect into me (thank you Mom & Dad) and sometimes, with all the lame excuses I hear coming to YouTuber’s about their “right” to rip others stuff … well that disapoints me deeply. I hear enough from our elected officials in Washington that they did “nothing illegal” as their ethics sank to an all time low. Is the YouTube generation just as ethically corrupt. What a dissapointment if that is true.

  • Bob Caswell


    I appreciate your perspective. Makes sense. I suppose my take revolves around how slowly big, bloated companies seem to react to a socially driven Internet.

    Digital media is so extremely convenient, accessible, popular, etc. and yet, Viacom is in denial about the whole thing, what with quotes like “no marketing advantage.”

    The world is adapting and changing around it while it’s so slow to react. I don’t know that I think YouTubers have a “right” to rip others stuff. But at the same time, I’m not impressed with Viacom making up its own rights (forcing YouTube to implement filtering, etc.) rather than moving where the market naturally wants it to go.