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March 18, 2010 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Google Alleges That Viacom ‘Secretly Uploaded Its Content to YouTube, Even While Publicly Complaining About Its Presence There’ Zahavah Levine, chief counsel for YouTube in its litigation with Viacom, explains:
For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. […] 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.
[via DF]
posted by ocherdraco (49 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Perhaps Viacom was trying to sue its way into owning a piece of Google -- through settlement, perhaps. A pretty clever, if underhanded, way to go about it, if so.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:27 PM on March 18, 2010


I always get a kick out of these stories about someone trying to pull one over on Google and Google responding, "Nice try, pal. We know what you're up to."

And then I realize that Google always seems to know what people are up to.
posted by charred husk at 12:31 PM on March 18, 2010 [103 favorites]


So many stories about copyright squabbles seem to have, at their core, a theme of utter ineptitude on the part of the content industry.
posted by Western Infidels at 12:31 PM on March 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


Burn. Total burn. I know that some people think Google is evil, and that may be true, but at least it is a deliciously nerdy kind of evil.
posted by muddgirl at 12:32 PM on March 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


That's just hilarious.
posted by magstheaxe at 12:33 PM on March 18, 2010


I was just reading this and laughing my head off. If I had the number for the head of Viacom I would be strongly tempted to call it and go "HA-ha!" /Nelson.
posted by rtha at 12:36 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


HA! This is a riot.
posted by brundlefly at 12:37 PM on March 18, 2010


Oh, my. I totally forgot about the lawsuit. Hilarious.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:46 PM on March 18, 2010


Perhaps Viacom was trying to sue its way into owning a piece of Google -- through settlement, perhaps. A pretty clever, if underhanded, way to go about it, if so.

The guys in charge of suing people and the guys in charge of promoting shit hating and barely talking to each other sounds a lot more plausible as an explanation, TBH.

"Fuck you, stuffy legal guys, you never let us do anything!"

"Fuck you, marketing guys, you're a bunch of irresponsible skateboard riding jerks with weird piercings who never think anything through!"

"Grarr!"

/loop
posted by Artw at 12:46 PM on March 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


> And then I realize that Google always seems to know what people are up to.

When somebody from Viacom phones, asking to restore the video for some apparently-random YouTube account, the key high-tech tool used by Google's elite data mining squad probably is the telco's caller ID.
posted by ardgedee at 12:50 PM on March 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


It's not like it would have been hard for anyone to figure out that they were uploading videos, especially given the fact that they would "return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement"
posted by delmoi at 12:54 PM on March 18, 2010


Funny though it is, this is the lawyer from one side talking. May not be true. Hope it is. Why talking like Rorshach. Not sure.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:57 PM on March 18, 2010 [40 favorites]


Rorschach talk gets favorites. MeFites all whores.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:00 PM on March 18, 2010 [20 favorites]


Good joke. Everyone laugh.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:03 PM on March 18, 2010 [21 favorites]


This. This ends now.
posted by sourwookie at 1:15 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


*eats beans*
posted by brundlefly at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


Perhaps Viacom was doing this to create outrage. Creating the Boogeyman.

"See! See what people are doing with the content you pay good money for?"

Then they manufacture a set of circumstances that allow them to set the legal precedent they want.
posted by sourwookie at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are some delicious beans.
posted by finite at 1:31 PM on March 18, 2010


"Anybody who thinks a large company, is just one company, has never worked at a large company."

The above is true even in the best of times. Put some pressure on an organization, and oh man, things get crazy. And all media companies are under a heck of a lot of pressure.
posted by effugas at 1:34 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Anybody who thinks a large company, is just one company, has never worked at a large company."

Or had a boss with emotional problems.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:46 PM on March 18, 2010


Then they manufacture a set of circumstances that allow them to set the legal precedent they want.

Space squid. Preposterous in theory. Atwood says unworkable. Am unsure, personally. Hurm.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:49 PM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I love how the charge that DaringFireball.com levies at Viacom is the dreaded "hypocrisy."

It's not bad because it's hypocritical, it's bad because it's fucking legal malpractice and/or fraud. Did Viacom really have a reasonable belief that Google was infriging Viacom's copyrights by distributing videos that Viacom itself uploaded? Did their lawyers ask Viacom whether they or any of their agencies uploaded them in the first place?

Who even cares about hypocrisy? Google is hypocritical too. They claim to protect your privacy, unless is suits them to play connect-the-dots with your internet activities. How can a corporation be hypocritical? Corporations don't say anything, they have some employees saying somethings while unbeknownst to them, other employees are saying and doing the opposite.

It's such a silly thing to complain about, especially in light of the far more egregious actions.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:51 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's such a silly thing to complain about, especially in light of the far more egregious actions.

It's the other way around, Pastabagel. Viacom is "complaining" via a lawsuit that Google is infringing upon their copyright by allowing users to upload video without checking their copyright claims. Google is pointing out that they can't reasonably be expected to check copyright claims - they can only remove videos once they are identified and challenged by the copyright-holder. The somewhat-embarrasing fact that Viacom intentionally hides the fact that they are the copyright holder when they upload videos is pertinent to Google's defense.
posted by muddgirl at 1:55 PM on March 18, 2010


@Pastabagel,

Agreed, but the shorter John Gruber can make his comment after an astounding paragraph of text, the more clever he appears! (I enjoy his work, and I enjoy the technique.)
posted by Doug Stewart at 1:56 PM on March 18, 2010


Good joke. Everyone laugh.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:03 PM on March 18


But doctor/Youtube, I am Pagliacci/Viacom? That's worth more favourites than I can give it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2010


At Doug Stewart,

I am writing at you. And the reason I am writing at you is to encourage you to not write at other people like that. The message I'm trying to get at you, is that being written at is kind of rude. Do you agree at that?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:14 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it is now pretty well established that all the Draconian measures by owners of media rights were boneheaded manoeuvres by corporate dinosaurs clueless as to how to manage in the digital age and not some noble efforts to look out for the rights of artists. The bullshit continues to rain down, though.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:23 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


2 fff: too right, dude.

Let's not do this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:24 PM on March 18, 2010


This is so crazy and dumb that I can totally see the legal team not even thinking of it as a possibility. I hope viacom has to pay through the nose if they really did this.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:27 PM on March 18, 2010


A pretty clever, if underhanded, way to go about it, if so.

Working for a large media company myself, I can honestly say "Never attribute cunning to something that can be adequately explained by incompetence."

This kind of shit goes on all the time, this just happens to be a hilariously visible example. Different departments are given totally conflicting marching orders and both carry on, working as hard as they can, oblivious that their primary opposition is one floor above them.

You'd think that working in a telecommunications industry, people would, you know, communicate.

You'd be wrong more than you'd expect.
posted by quin at 2:27 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who even cares about hypocrisy? Google is hypocritical too. They claim to protect your privacy, unless is suits them to play connect-the-dots with your internet activities.

How do you know?

No, I'm serious. I've personally been somewhere with more data than they knew what to do with. And you know what? They didn't know what to do with it. It wasn't like this was some new thing. They'd always had that much data.

We have this fascinating presumption that we are all fascinating individuals with amazing dossiers that people can't wait to read. You know what? Most people are pretty damn boring, and the reality is, it's really, amazingly, surprisingly difficult to monetize your innermost secrets.
posted by effugas at 2:27 PM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just wait for GmailBlack, Google's first truly mindbogglingly-profitable "subscription" service.
posted by Decimask at 2:36 PM on March 18, 2010


Most people are pretty damn boring, and the reality is, it's really, amazingly, surprisingly difficult to monetize your innermost secrets.

Porn.
posted by djgh at 2:42 PM on March 18, 2010


djgh--

OK, porn.

...and?
posted by effugas at 2:44 PM on March 18, 2010


Honestly, it's not Google I worry about, It's Equifax and its bretheren. I had a look at its acquisition history the other day, along with the products it is now offering. Looks as if they might be branching out of rating your credit.

Does your company post your W-2 to The Work Number? Guess who bought TALX, the company who built it (hint, upper right hand corner of the TALX site).
posted by The Power Nap at 2:46 PM on March 18, 2010


Metafilter. Beans. Overthought.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:49 PM on March 18, 2010


...and?

Sorry, that was a bit of a throwaway jokey comment.

I agree with you that there's probably no human reading anyones' things (at least on anything like a semi-repeated basis - maybe once in a blue moon in response to government intervention or something). However, I think it highly likely that a company with essentially data mining at its core isn't using some kind of funky algorithm to work out broad parameters about how x@googlemail.com functions - in relation to the whole spectrum of Google searches. In all likelihood it's just so that people get more targeted ads, and Google makes more revenue off the back of the better click through or whatever.

So in response to "Who even cares about hypocrisy? Google is hypocritical too. They claim to protect your privacy, unless is suits them to play connect-the-dots with your internet activities", the issue then comes down to how you regard privacy - if nobody actually reads it, but a machine does, is your privacy still violated? I don't really know how I feel about that - I'm pretty ambivalent about the prospect of a machine picking up key words in relation to my Google account and serving me more relevant ads in relation to that.

But you seem to be suggesting (and correct me if I'm wrong) that Google isn't playing connect-the-dots. There's a difference between them doing this as a company, and someone actually reading it, but just because there is that difference doesn't mean that to some their privacy is still being infringed.
posted by djgh at 3:11 PM on March 18, 2010


Damn you, misplaced apostrophe.
posted by djgh at 3:11 PM on March 18, 2010


Why we talk like this?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:20 PM on March 18, 2010


And then I realize that Google always seems to know what people are up to.


So don't be evil online.

Can google reasonably counter sue for malfeasance if the demonstrate that viacom uploaded a significant percent of the videos?
posted by sammyo at 3:44 PM on March 18, 2010


Ars Technica: Smoking guns, dark secrets aplenty in YouTube-Viacom filings
"In a July 19, 2005 e-mail to YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen wrote: 'jawed, please stop putting stolen videos on the site. We’re going to have a tough time defending the fact that we’re not liable for the copyrighted material on the site because we didn’t put it up when one of the co-founders is blatantly stealing content from other sites and trying to get everyone to see it.'"
Doh
posted by finite at 3:47 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


YouTube's founders hoped to build a massive user base as quickly as possible and then sell the site. "Our dirty little secret... is that we actually just want to sell out quickly," said Karim at one point. In an e-mail, Chen talked about "concentrat[ing] all of our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil."

Thanks, finite, that's great stuff.
posted by mediareport at 4:02 PM on March 18, 2010


holders of Copyrights must affirmatively defend all encroachmentsless. By secretly posting their own content, I think one could make the argument that Viacom is nullifying its express copyright by way of constructive abandonment.
if so, thats a (kharmicly) rich dessert.
posted by Fupped Duck at 4:28 PM on March 18, 2010


The problem Youtube had was that they couldn't know if something was posted without the consent of the rightsholder until they received a DMCA complaint. There's a lot of communication that seems like their officers were they were hosting content without rightsholder auth, but Viacom's actions reveal that in many cases the officers were dead wrong and videos were in fact posted by the rightsholder.

Fupped Duck: "holders of Copyrights must affirmatively defend all encroachmentsless."

Nope. Only trademarks require proactive protection on the part of the owner. You can allow your copyrighted work to be infringed for the entire life of the copyright up until the last day it's in effect, then blast every infringer with a lawsuit and win.
posted by mullingitover at 4:34 PM on March 18, 2010


"'Anybody who thinks a large company, is just one company, has never worked at a large company.'"

It's even better when it's some vertically integrated entertainment company.

Fox News Threatened to Sue The Simpsons
Over a Parody Segment
http://www.icv2.com/articles/home/3745.html

October 24, 2003
During an interview broadcast today on NPR's Fresh Air, Simpsons creator Matt Groening revealed that the Fox News Network had threatened to sue The Simpsons over a parody of the right-leaning news channel. The highly sensitive news organization, which is headed by Roger Ailes, made headlines this summer with an ill-starred lawsuit against humorist Al Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. The Fox suit was thrown out in court and only succeeded in making Franken's book a bestseller. According to Groening, the Simpsons team refused to cut out the segment, which Groening told Fresh Air he "really liked," figuring that Rupert Murdoch wouldn't allow the Fox News cable network to sue the Fox Broadcast Network, which carries The Simpsons. The Fox News Network did back down on its threat, although it has told The Simpsons creators that in the future, cartoon series will not be allowed to include a "news crawl" along the bottom of the screen, which might "confuse the viewers."

posted by Mitheral at 5:35 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm reminded of Wells Fargo suing themselves in a mortgage foreclosure case last year.
posted by autopilot at 6:02 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement"

If only they were sheepish. Usually they are panicked, angry, desperate, and/or entitled.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 11:08 PM on March 18, 2010


Huh. It's almost as if the corporation wasn't a person, but rather several people who don't always know what each other are doing.
posted by Eideteker at 9:43 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


And yet in many ways, the law consideres them to be a person. How screwy!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:12 AM on March 19, 2010


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