Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

YouTube Forecast: Lawsuits With a Chance of More Lawyers

Another week, another legal battle for YouTube.

This time, the National Music Publishers Association is adding its name to an existing lawsuit over whether the video-sharing site–big surprise–violated copyright laws. The group owns copyrights to lyrics and melodies for songs, rather than the songs themselves, which are mostly owned by record labels.

And while the four big labels have struck their Faustian bargain with YouTube, betting perhaps that ad dollars are their future and convinced of the need for the marketing power on YouTube, the NMPA is not buying that story quite yet.

Naturally, Google, owner of YouTube, can’t believe anyone would refuse its kind offers of promotional help in exchange for putting up with some intellectual-property infringement.

You can just hear those techies from their nerd version of Willy Wonka’s factory in Mountain View, Calif.: Can you imagine, those ingrates–can’t they understand our big brains will get to their puny concerns when we are good and ready!

“Many song writers and music publishers view YouTube as a promising promotional platform for connecting with their fans,” Google said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. “We are surprised and disappointed that the NMPA has elected to take this route.”

Well, the company should not be that surprised, given that YouTube has yet to roll out its video “fingerprinting” technology that could help identify suspect clips on the site.

Until then (a fall date has been mentioned), Google has been claiming it is not at fault, since it removes clips when content owners ask and it is following U.S. copyright law. Here is a great piece by the Journal’s Kevin Delaney today on efforts in this regard.

Still, many content owners are plenty unhappy with the cost and effort needed to police the giant service. The lawsuit the NMPA is joining includes other content owners. In addition, in another suit, Viacom has famously sued Google for $1 billion over similar allegations of copyright infringement.

To get you up to speed, below are the highlight videos (full interviews to be posted soon on this site) of interviews Walt and I did with three of the players in this debate at D5 in late May: YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen; Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman; and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.

We interviewed them onstage in that order right after each other, to underscore the copyright debate. But also, just because we’re puckish that way.

At the end, there is also a video related to Delaney’s copyright-police story.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.


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