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Viacom's sledgehammer cracks User-Generated Content too

How could Viacom have trawled through the millions of videos hosted on YouTube, and picked out the ones that infringed their copyright? Well, they didn't. Instead it appears that they simply ran a crude keyword search against any Viacom trademarks or brands -- which has resulted in, potentially, thousands of User-Generated videos being caught in the crossfire.
Written by Steve O'Hear, Contributor on

When Viacom sent 100,000 DMCA take-down notices to YouTube, the words "sledgehammer" and "nut" came to mind. How could the company have trawled through the millions of videos hosted on YouTube, and picked out only the ones that infringed their copyright? Well, they didn't. Instead it appears that they simply ran a crude keyword search against any Viacom trademarks or brands -- which has resulted in, potentially, thousands of User-Generated videos being caught in the crossfire.

One example is Jim Moore's 30 second video of himself and three friends having dinner, titled "Sunday nite dinner at Redbones in Somerville, Mass" which received a take-down notice, prompted by Viacom. Interestingly, Moore says he doesn't blame YouTube for complying, but fears that his video might be one of thousands of legitimate productions that have been yanked from the site.

Writing about the incident over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow isn't so forgiving:

This is shockingly bad behaviour on the part of both Viacom and Google, YouTube's owner. Viacom's indiscriminate spamigation is incredibly negligent and evil. They certainly know that a search for a term like "Redbones" will catch videos like Jim Moore's...

But Google's lawyers should have known better, too. The DMCA says that if a web-hoster ignores a takedown request, it's liable for copyright damages if the material in question is found to be infringing. YouTube can't afford to just let any lunatic -- including the savage pricks at Viacom -- indiscriminately censor the content it hosts. That's not fair to its customers.

For Moore (and others like him) the only redress is to file a counter notice and ultimately take Viacom to court.

Meanwhile, there could be a Viacom backlash in the making, as one user has posted a video onto YouTube urging consumers to boycott the Viacom brands. From the comments posted alongside the video, it's clear that YouTube users are angry at Viacom's sledgehammer approach and the impact it's having on legitimate content, but also feel strongly that the company is acting against its own interests by removing Viacom content from the site.

As one commenter writes:

Viacom is not only p***ing off youtube viewers but alienating future CUSTOMERS. Youtube is one of the greatest gifts to marketing since TV and radio. It's called FREE ADVERTISING you dolts. More people BUY and become familiar with Viacom content via youtube than than any money lost through so called copyright violations

Related post: Viacom to YouTube: show us the money (and those filtering tools you promised)

 

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