Viacom Uploads Their Content to YouTube While Suing Them for it Being There

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.

  • Kevin Muldoon

    The last article I read about this whole thing suggested that Viacom would win the lawsuit with damages close to the 1 billion they are asking for. So if this is true this will really complicate things in the courts.

    It does seem strange that YouTube are talking about this whilst the court case is still going on. You’d think that they wouldn’t be allowed to speak about it until it has been completed.

    • Matt

      I was under the impression that Viacom would lose simply because YouTube is the classic example of the “Safe Harbor” clause in the DMCA. Third parties upload tons of content, which is not reviewed before it goes online, and YouTube can’t possibly police or be responsible for that.

      I, too, was a little surprised that YouTube was allowed to publish that post. It should be interesting to see what happens next, though…