Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Cartman Pirated No Longer? OK, a Little Longer, but by Viacom, Too!

Let’s start with the fact that right now, I can pretty much get, say, the entire and relatively recent “Cartman Sucks” episode (in several pieces) from “South Park” on YouTube anytime.

Also, I might add that these parody videos posted below–a mashup of the ribald animated series and the Apple ads and another with “Harry Potter”–are chock full of jacked material!

Oh yes, I just grabbed this fine picture of the “South Park” character right off the Web without a problem.

cartman

I await Viacom owner Sumner Redstone’s wrath and expect his legions of lawyers to come raining down on me asap.

Herein lies the problem and the impetus for a new–and I would say not insignificant–deal just signed by the creators of “South Park” with its principal distributor, Viacom’s Comedy Central, which a New York Times report outlined in today’s paper.

According to the story, “South Park” creators and executive producers Matt Stone and Trey Parker, sick of seeing their valuable content ripped off pretty much everywhere it can be digitally ripped off, have decided to get into the viral video game themselves, which should have occurred to them, oh, many, many moons ago.

“If I’m overseas and have to get an episode right away,” Stone said to the Times, “you literally have to go to an illegal download site.”

I cannot imagine what a “South Park” character would do with an obviously obvious statement like that, but it would surely involve a bodily function.

Under terms of the deal, in which it appears Comedy Central (a division of MTV, which is a division of Viacom, which is a division of owner Sumner Redstone’s increasingly pissed-off-about-YouTube brain) will be footing the bill, they will create a Web hub to get “South Park” material out there before all the piraters can (and will still continue to, by the way).

To combat that too, the new unit will try to create new material well beyond the show. New television concepts, perhaps even bigger than the massive “South Park” franchise, could even emerge.

As part of the arrangement, they’ll all apparently split any ad revenue from SouthParkStudios.com, which should tell you all you need to know about the mood of Hollywood right now.

Studios are justifiably scared of the digital onslaught and actually have started to imagine funding talented people to create material to compete and to share in the ventures’ success might be a good idea.

While that’s business-as-usual in tech funding, the idea is an anathema to the entertainment industry, which likes to keep its talent happily overpaid with pap (though giant) salaries, all while keeping the really good and lucrative stuff–the actual ownership of the creative product–to itself.

The artists are no better, accepting the pricey pay-off in exchange for their work. Or as Stone said in an interview with the Times: “People always ask us, ‘You own it, right? No? Why’d you sign that deal?’ And I have to say, ‘Because I was sleeping on my friend’s couch.’”

Thus, the Google twins are billionaires many times over and the “South Park” dudes are merely really rich.

That’s achingly typical, and Hollywood execs argue that it’s because they take all the risk by funding, distributing and marketing the various entertainment projects. But with the advent of digital distribution and creation, it obviously all needs a bit of retooling.

Not that Viacom has not tried everything, in a panic after the not-buying of MySpace, which has definitely been a flash point for the company. Another, of course, is the $1 billion lawsuit it is waging against Google over copyright infringement on YouTube.

redstone

But I like this kind of move a lot better, even if it is a big flop and even if it is only reserved for giant rainmakers like Stone and Parker. While Hollywood powers like Viacom surely won’t allow others in on the game quite yet, it is an encouraging and even bold direction to the usual picture of Redstone (pictured here) harrumphing about digital piracy of its material.

While I agree that that is a problem that tech companies like Google need to address and have been arrogant about not addressing quickly enough, new CEO Philippe Dauman (whom I interviewed at D5 in May) is obviously a good influence.

It’s a move that should be replicated to make Web content as important as it could be. Hollywood needs to make more smart moves like this or else they are cooked.

Or maybe they are already, in the words of Cartman:

Stan: Dude, dolphins are intelligent and friendly.
Cartman: Intelligent and friendly on rye bread with some mayonnaise.

Now that’s funny, as are these two parody videos:

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google (owner of YouTube).


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We need some angry nerds.

— Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain, writing in Technology Review about the need for users and software developers to rebel against closed app platforms like Apple, Google and Microsoft