As you may or may not know, Viacom is suing YouTube for a billion dollars. I find the move to be highly ridiculous for a variety of reasons.

First of all, no one can download vids off of the site so any comparison to Napster is unfounded. People aren’t burning copies of their fave flicks or shows preventing them from buying the DVDs that Viacom/Paramount rely on for income. This isn’t piracy. In fact, having watched some shows such as Robot Chicken, which I am never home to watch, has made me a fan and possible purchaser of their DVDs. One could think of YouTube as a demo, something Paramount should be grateful for rather than angry over.

Secondly, the view that ad revenue for Viacom’s shows are being stolen is likewise idiotic in that no ad, no matter how creative, has ever convinced me to buy a product. Most people leave the room when commercials come on. If Viacom is angry over this problem they should lash out at TiVo, VCRs, and data recorders in that they likewise allow people to skip over the ad portions of television channels. Could you imagine what the industry would be like if all these studios had come out against the VCR or the cassette player in the 80s? Both allow individuals to copy “property” and thus strip a certain amount of revenue from the company yet no studio had a problem with these devices. In fact, they helped to drive up demand for movies, music, and television. For the industry to be angry at the next step of that evolution of sharing “property” confounds me.

Third, the belief that YouTube is making a killing off of the backs of the studios. It is the members, not the site, who are posting the videos. All YouTube functions as is a waypoint for the sharing of videos between individuals like a videostore. The company derives its revenue from advertising based on the ever growing number of traffic flowing through the site. For Viacom to assault YouTube and not MySpace or any other such site seems biased. Other studios have been willing to try and settle a deal/licensing option with YouTube. For Viacom to come crashing through the front door is crude and smacks of an attempt at some free publicity.

There is a certain irony over what Paramount is doing. Having tried to deal with this studio in a professional manner at one time, Paramount is itself notorious for stealing the ideas of other studios and artists and then challenging anyone to sue them for it (i.e. Deep Impact, Forrest Gump, etc.). It is a highly litigious company that screws everyone it deals with and now wants to play pariah.

Everyone believes this is only going to lead to a licensing deal between the two companies because of the fact neither wants to battle this out in court for fear over the outcome. Despite the comparison to Napster this is an entirely different concept in that downloading is impossible. Likewise, YouTube has said it is willing to remove content if asked by the studios and even have a page that requires posters to take culpability if the content is copyrighted.

I see this as some effort by a group of executives who can’t seem to fathom why their revenue is dropping. Perhaps it is because the content they are providing is utter crap. Pass the buck of poor management to a website. Surely YouTube threatens their entire company! Please, give me a break. Viacom could have done the civilized thing and negotiated before going to this extreme. But that would have required legitimate business acumen, not shoddy, hypocritical actions.

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