Viacom Actively Infringed Upon Itself on YouTube

May 22, 2010

As the war between Viacom and Google heats up, this has become one of my favorite news bits from the past couple of months.

As court documents from the feud became public, it was discovered that Google alleges that some of the challenged content was intentionally posted on Youtube by Viacom. This presents an interesting defense.  In an economic environment where viral marketing is the most effective, Viacom has a multitude of reasons to infringe upon their own rights.  If they chose to do so, does that constitute a waiver of their copyrights?

In the world of Web 2.0, viral marketing has become and essential component of nearly every business.  Social media has made the consumer tremendously stronger when it comes to promoting any product or service.  Having a user create a Facebook campaign for you seems to be even more effective than a Super Bowl Commercial (the Betty White SNL campaign).  In order to appear as if a product has grassroots support, companies will use secondary companies to post content from IP addresses not associated with either company.  Ever notice how the first few episodes of every new show get “leaked”?

The concept of viral marketing poses very few IP questions to the average company as they have little content to protect.  Entertainment companies like Viacom, however, have a lot to lose and gain from viral marketing and user created content.  How does a company go about exploiting the new technology while still protecting their content?  And if they chose to promote the infringement of their content via specific outlet, does that create a blanket waiver of the infringement of their content on that outlet?

The first lesson that I feel like needs to be learned by most businesses is that social media is leveling the playing field.  We all have a link to mass media and a wide base of consumers.  In order to stay relevant, traditional companies are going to have to make use of the new medium.

Secondly, copyright laws in this country need to be overhauled to handle this new level of mass communication.  If web users are going to drive your sales, then you need to make concessions to said users when it comes to enforcing your intellectual properties.

Full story @ USA Today