By Joshua S. Hill
Thursday, August 16, 2007
It was only a matter of time before a big entertainment conglomerate attempted to bring their full weight down on the head of internet video giant YouTube, and it was Viacom -- the company behind MTV, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central -- that has made the first move. With a twist though, as they have sided with The Football Association Premier League Ltd and indie music label Bourne Co.
Filed with the New York federal court, the suit alleges that YouTube is "…pursuing a deliberate strategy of engaging in, permitting, encouraging, and facilitating massive copyright infringement on the YouTube website".
The aim of the suit is to draw Google in to a stranglehold where its ability to publish any content is severely restricted. Any further restrictions set upon the YouTube design will mean slower upload times, more checks along the way and less freedom for those who are actually providing decent content. In addition the suit hopes to acquire unspecified damages for past violations.
Thankfully though, Google has deep, deep pockets; really deep! And they've announced that they want to depose approximately 30 people, including well known and beloved comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The two funny men, whose shows are broadcast over the Viacom network's Comedy Central, are surprising additions to a list that includes Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone and CEO Philippe Dauman.
No doubt Viacom will be arguing shortly that the deposition of these two funny men is entirely irrelevant to the case, however pundits -- including this humble reporter -- disagree. In fact these two may very well be the lynch pin in a case that could very well change the face of the internet as we currently know it.
It is well known that both comedians are big fans of YouTube, with Stewart often showcasing funny clips found on the social networking video site on his own show, whereas Stephen Colbert has openly asked people to spread his work across the internet, using YouTube and other video sites. Why have they focused so much attention on this website? The answer is simple, because they understand where media is heading, and what needs to happen so that television stars like themselves can stay in business.
The issue is of course the fact that Viacom -- along with many of the major industry heavies across the television, movie and music spectrum -- are literally entirely clueless when it comes to the future. They are so wrapped up in the current way of doing things that they are unable to see what is happening outside of their bubble. They receive reports that their ratings are dropping, and that this "internet" thing is picking up speed -- "as if it will last".
Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart may never make it to an official setting, but they have already made themselves an intrinsic part of the debate that will no doubt be waged for several years to come. We can only sit back and hope that the noise we make from out here in the bleachers is heard all the way up in their tall towers.