For the last couple years, there has been an ongoing legal battle between YouTube and Viacom. Viacom has been protesting their content’s presence on YouTube, demanding that they do more to prevent clips from being uploaded, and referring to the site as a bastion of piracy.
The plot is thickening, as a recent blog posting from YouTube shows.
For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.
It’s hard to tell whether this was an intentional plot against YouTube, or if this is a case of one hand not knowing what the other is doing. The music industry, also, has had mishaps where the marketing arm distributed songs online as a promotion, only to have the legal department send DMCA notices to the sites hosting the music. It’s certainly possible that the hired marketing agencies were trying to artificially kickstart “viral marketing” campaigns with the “roughed up” video clips, and the legal teams were unaware. Either way, it’s bad.