YouTube gets Viacom smackdown

If YouTube thought that it was out of the woods when it signed those content deals with CBS, Sony BMG and other content owners — on the eve of its acquisition by Google — it looks like it was wrong. Viacom slapped the video-sharing site with a takedown notice on Friday, saying YouTube hosts more than 100,000 videos of copyrighted content, including clips from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and other Comedy Central favourites.

According to a statement from Viacom:

“After months of ongoing discussions with YouTube and Google, it has become clear that YouTube is unwilling to come to a fair market agreement that would make Viacom content available to YouTube users.”

The company said that the recent addition of YouTube videos to the video search function on Google “compounds this issue.”

GoogleTV1.jpgBut wait — haven’t we seen this movie before? Indeed we have. Viacom sent a nastygram to YouTube back in October telling it to do the same thing, and many Jon Stewart clips vanished overnight from the massive video site (although in most cases it was only full-length shows rather than clips). But then it seemed as though the TV networks were starting to see the benefit of exposing their content to millions of fans — CBS said that viewing shows on the web increases viewership, and NBC put dozens of clips from its show Saturday Night Live up on the site.

What seems to have happened is that Viacom has either gotten tired of waiting for YouTube to install the copyright management system it described when it signed the deals with CBS and others, or it wants more money to allow its content to remain on the site. The company’s statement said:

“Filtering tools promised repeatedly by YouTube and Google have not been put in place, and they continue to host and stream vast amounts of unauthorized video. YouTube and Google retain all of the revenue generated from this practice, without extending fair compensation to the people who have expended all of the effort and cost to create it.”

In other words, pay up or take it down.

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