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Friday, May 16, 2008

"Dear Sumner Redstone, from the guy you STOLE video from ..."

In spite of what I said about no hard feelings, there ain't no way that I'm gonna let this one slide...

Many of you no doubt remember what happened between me and Viacom several months ago, regarding the first TV commercial from my 2006 school board campaign.

To quickly recap: months after the election, Viacom's network VH1 chose to use my commercial for a segment of its show Web Junk 2.0, without bothering to ask me about it. I didn't mind, heck I thought it was pretty funny. So a few days after that episode runs I posted the clip of Web Junk 2.0 running MY commercial onto YouTube, so that I could share it on this blog.

A month and a half later, I was notified by YouTube that Viacom had demanded that the clip be removed, and YouTube was acquiescing with the order. Viacom actually claimed that I was violating its copyright... when it had violated my copyright to begin with!

Of course, I couldn't believe the rank hypocrisy of the situation. "Chutzpah" is the word I used to describe it. And it really wasn't a question of whether or not I wanted to fight it: the circumstance more or less obligated it. I filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act counter-claim with YouTube, while the case engendered considerable media attention. Two weeks later Viacom yielded and the clip was restored to YouTube. I still gotta thank a lot of good people, especially the folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for providing considerable support during that whole fiasco.

You'd think that Viacom would have learned a lesson from all of this, right?

Jazz at All Thats Evil was the first to pass along some remarks made last week in South Korean by Sumner Redstone, the CEO of Viacom. Here's the link that Jazz sent from Inside Online Video, which cites John Dvorak's take on Redstone's remarks.

To wit...

[According to Redstone] When you post a clip of The Daily Show on YouTube, for example, that may indeed have a positive effect on the show and its ratings, but it’s not your decision to make. In the world of the media giants, a fan has no special privileges and is not part of the marketing department.

As a fan, your job is to watch a few ads (or buy a ticket), enjoy the show, tell your friends about it, and get out of the way.

And here's a quote directly from Redstone...
During a question-and-answer session after the speech, Redstone took a swipe at popular video-sharing site YouTube, which his company has sued.

"We cannot tolerate any form of piracy by anyone, including YouTube," he said.

Viacom sued YouTube and its parent Google Inc. in March last year, claiming that the Web site is rife with copyrighted video from Viacom shows and seeking more than US$1 billion in damages.

Mr. Redstone, I don't know if you realize this or if you even care, but I am a person that your own company not only STOLE video from, but chose to PROFIT from that theft!

And you have the audacity to tell the world that using the most miniscule segments of video, without asking the original copyright owners for permission or even caring enough to inform them that it's being used, is "theft" and "piracy"? When most people who post clips onto YouTube never make a cent for their efforts while you run a multi-billion dollar company that does the same thing for profit?

Sumner Redstone, shut the hell up, sir!

For all your talk of "cannot tolerate any form of piracy by anyone", you don't give a damn about YOUR OWN COMPANY committing piracy already!

Hell, Viacom never even offered me an apology for when it stole (I wouldn't ordinarily categorize using my video as "theft" by anyone else but Redstone's comments throws this into whole 'nother territory) my video.

Previously I regarded this whole thing as a misunderstanding, and that I was glad we were able to resolve this amiably and "go our separate ways".

But now, after reading Redstone's remarks in Seoul, I have to seriously wonder if I made a mistake in not pressing this further. Parse that as you will...


Anonymous said...

Redstone is the dirty old uncle who comes to Thanksgiving dinner but in this case he's not a nuisance. He is evil! Sumner ridicules his own daughter in front of others. How's that for love? I work somewhere in the company and the day he leaves Viacom will be a very good day.

Brian (Nunchux) said...

People like this drive me batty! This man, and both of his companies, makes millions, if not billions, of dollars every year. He's got jack and squat to complain about. The article mentions him saying that pirating costs the US economy $20 billion per year. I highly doubt that... just becuase the TV moguls aren't making as much money doesn't mean the economy as a whole is affected. I mean, it's not like he's sharing those profits with the rest of us.

And the fact that he can preach after stealing your work is beyond... well, beyond my ability to describe.

zenofjazz said...

Hey, Chris, check out this nifty link, inspired by a commercial on a Viacom owned cable property:

Sumner Redstone, Salute!


Anonymous said...

"And you have the audacity to tell the world that using the most miniscule segments of video, without asking the original copyright owners for permission or even caring enough to inform them that it's being used, is 'theft'"

So if I just take say $5 from your bank account that's not theft? But if I take $10,000 then it's theft?

Hmmmm I'm not sure that conforms to the 10 commandments.

Chris Knight said...

Check out the Dvorak piece about this. He makes a very compelling case about why using tiny snippets of video is really just an updated version of using quotations. How it is practically a necessity of Internet communication, even. It does become a problem if this is about posting video of entire shows/movies but in the *vast* majority of cases, that's not happening at all.

Some companies don't have a problem with this. Look on YouTube for all the clips of Lost that fans have posted. Not only does ABC and Touchstone allow this, they apparently *encourage* it, because it's the kind of thing that increases the "want to see" factor and encourages discussion/speculation about the show. That's smart advertising! And if Redstone were smart, he would be FAR more lenient toward this kind of thing too.

Heck, I sure didn't know about Web Junk 2.0 until this happened. And a lot of people told me they'd never heard of it either. Redstone should have paid me for all the free publicity I gave his network :-)