Media conglomermonster Viacom - which has tied up the video hosting service in litigation for the past three years over "copyright infringement" - is now said to have been secretly uploading its own videos to the Google-owned website!
From the statement on the official YouTube blog, pertaining to court documents made public earlier today...
Because content owners large and small use YouTube in so many different ways, determining a particular copyright holder’s preference or a particular uploader’s authority over a given video on YouTube is difficult at best. And in this case, it was made even harder by Viacom’s own practices.Good. Lord.
For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately "roughed up" the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko's to upload clips from computers that couldn't be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt "very strongly" that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.
Viacom's efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.
Given Viacom’s own actions, there is no way YouTube could ever have known which Viacom content was and was not authorized to be on the site. But Viacom thinks YouTube should somehow have figured it out. The legal rule that Viacom seeks would require YouTube -- and every Web platform -- to investigate and police all content users upload, and would subject those web sites to crushing liability if they get it wrong.
If true, Viacom's actions are about the most boneheaded legal maneuver pertaining to digital entertainment that I can think of since Universal tried to sue Nintendo for using Donkey Kong to infringe on King Kong when Universal didn't own King Kong to begin with. That case became a huge victory for Nintendo and helped propel it to being the corporate giant that it is today. Might this allegation - if found to be true - prove to be a similar boon for YouTube? Yeah, I think it's possible.
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EDIT 6:48 p.m. EST: Do not think for one moment that I am NOT hysterically giggling about this turn of events, for reasons that should be more than obvious :-)