Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Viacom and Google Fight in Court, but Work Together to Keep Kanye West Off of YouTube

video music award taylor swiftYes, Viacom is still suing Google for  a billion dollars, because it says too many of its videos showed up on YouTube. But that doesn’t mean Viacom and Google (GOOG) can’t work together to prevent the cable giant’s videos from showing up on YouTube.

Want to see this in action? Go to YouTube and try to find a clip of the Kanye West/Taylor Swift/Beyoncé incident from Sunday night’s Video Music Awards. Everyone’s still talking about it (I don’t know why, really, but I guess I’m out of the demo), but if you want to watch it on YouTube, you’re stuck watching shaky, grainy footage created when people film their TV sets with a camcorder.

That’s the result of Viacom (VIA) and YouTube using the site’s Content ID system–which YouTube installed after Viacom filed suit more than two years ago. Content ID allows YouTube to track copyrighted material on the site as long as the copyright owner tells it what to look for.

It’s not a plug-and-play solution: On Sunday, Viacom had to have staff work through the night to provide YouTube with “reference files” from the live show so that the Google’s video service could find the offending clips and take them down.

But it worked pretty well. Decent-quality clips of the Kanye incident were taken down fairly quickly, and the grainy shots had only generated some 700,000 views by Monday afternoon, according to video-tracker TubeMogul. Meanwhile, MTV’s official version was approaching two million views (it’s now above three million).

You could argue that both Google and MTV would be better served if the official clip was on YouTube. And one day, that might happen. But first, they have to settle their court case.

That looks less likely today than it did a week ago, by the way, because of the recent ruling in the Universal Music/Veoh case. Team Viacom says the case, which appears to be quite similar to its own, won’t have any bearing on the how the company proceeds, while the YouTube guys see it as an affirmation of their position. Translation: More legal back and forth and fewer Viacom clips on the world’s biggest video site.

Here’s one of the low-fi versions, by the way. Not recommended if you’re prone to motion sickness:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik