Saturday, May 29, 2010

Copyright law keeps getting in the way of profit

Yahoo! , IAC/InterActive, EBay  and Facebook urged a judge to dismiss Viacom Inc.’s copyright-infringement lawsuit against YouTube.

The four Internet companies filed 'friend-of-the-court' briefs on behalf of YouTube at the Manhattan federal court.

“Plaintiffs’ legal arguments, if accepted, would retard the development of the Internet and electronic commerce,” Asim Bhansali, an attorney representing the four companies, said in the brief.

Viacom, which owns MTV Networks and the Paramount film studio, claimed YouTube displayed 63,000 copyrighted works on its video-sharing website without authorisation. In March, New York-based Viacom asked U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton for a summary judgment ruling in its favor.


“The courts have been clear that creating and building a web-based business on the intellectual property of others is illegal. That is exactly what YouTube did in its formative years,” Kelly McAndrew, a Viacom spokeswoman, said in an e- mailed statement. “Nothing in this case threatens the principles of the DMCA or the ability of legitimate Internet- based businesses to flourish.”

This would seem to be not much more than the mumbo jumbo of an obscure American court.

It goes much further than that.

As most will now know we have the most confused set of rules affecting the downloading of music ever. Now downloading films is easy, cheap and getting faster, the same old nonsense is being trotted out.

We have to come to  grips with the whole idea of value and copyright.

I am a right holder of lots of stuff. It is stuff I| have worked on, invented, re arranged from other more intelligent people and sometimes just fun. As far as possible I make it freely available. That is, I do not ask for payment in money.

The value I get from it is huge. I have never been so busy in my life (writing this on a Bank Holiday Saturday in between work for one of my day jobs and a new book). I am busy because I have a lot of IP out there.

Today, journalism is thriving as never before. More journalists with more content exposed to a more relevant and even more devoted readership. Publishing, as The Time is about to show us is in a mess.

There is more music, better music, bigger audiences and a wider range of genre exposed to more people that ever. Music, composers, musicians and musical markets are flourishing. Yet the music publishing industry is in a mess.

And so the story goes on and now has hit YouTube.

The law is a complete mess and the reasons for having protected IP was usurped long ago.

It is time we re-thought all this. The music, news and film industries are not national defence, education, health care and other important parts of society and we should not encourage them to be a great big part of the nanny state. It is time, as companies, that they stopped bleating and got stuck into creating wealth for their shareholders. The lack of creative management in  Viacom is a matter for its shareholders. They should have the guts to fire Philippe Dauman and replace him with a tough operator who will drop the court case and get on with extracting value from the Viacom IP.