Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Viacom's continuing claims against Google about YouTube

In its lawsuit against Google seeking one billion dollars for the alleged copyright infringements committed and being committed on Google-owned YouTube, Viacom claims that it "has records of more than 150,000 unauthorized clips uploaded on the popular web site." That's an interesting, and very carefully crafted, statement. Viacom isn't claiming there are 150,000 instances of copyright infringement. Fair use only arises as an issue when the use is unauthorized. If use is agreed to, it's use is enforced by contract law. How many of those 150,000 "unauthorized clips" are really infringements? There's no way to know. Whether the unauthorized use of copyrighted work is fair use or an infringement requires too complicated a balancing of competing interests to distinguish among the 150,000 instances in an intellectually sound way.

Google claims it does more than is legally required as the owner of YouTube to control the use by individual uploaders of materials that might infringe. As I previously have pointed out, Google's policy on these matters seems to me a thoughtful and genuine effort to balance the opportunities for speech and creation created by the internet against the need for copyright ownership to provide sufficient incentive for creativity and invention.

And where in the world does the number of "unauthorized" uses come from?

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