Multi-media Leviathan Viacom has just filed a $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube. Others have sued YouTube in the past, but this is the first lawsuit that could actually bring down the entire YouTube business model. I am actually surprised it has not happened sooner.
Historically, YouTube has taken refuge under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA protects Internet Service Providers (ISP) from infringement claims under certain circumstances. Viacom apparently seeks to limit those certain circumstances to something other than an unlicensed YouTube type business model.
While it is unlikely YouTube would disappear altogether, Viacom’s lawsuit could force YouTube to get out of the house and get a job. If Viacom is successful, it will not be long before smaller copyright owners all pile on. There are undoubtedly thousands of copyright owners that want YouTube to be more pro-active in filtering out copyright infringing videos, but are just waiting for Viacom to take the heat and do all of the heavy lifting.
Lat month Viacom forced YouTube to remove much of its copyrighted content, such as “The Colbert Report.” Then Viacom inked a deal with YouTube competitor Joost. Viacom appears to be pushing its chips “all in” on this one. Just like copyright claims stopped the Napster free ride in its tracks, so too may a judge turn YouTube into a mere shell of its present incarnation. Although this would obviously be a blow to YouTube, even more importantly it would mean I would have to look for a new hobby to fill up what portends to create a twenty hour vacuum in my work week.