Oct 12, 2006

google, youtube, and copyrights

There's been a lot of discussion after the YouTube acquisition by Google regarding lawsuits, and copyrights, and takedown requests. It seems like the common wisdom out there is that what YouTube is doing is automatically illegal. I personally think the worries are completely overblown. Here's my line of thinking.

The first fair use court case that has relevance here is Sony v. Universal or the "Betamax case". The Supreme court ruled that manufacturers of VCRs aren't liable for copyright infringement because the majority of recording was not illegal. The case hinges on the concept of the technology (VCRs) having significant non-infringing uses.

Now turn to Napster or Grokster. Both of these companies lost their cases because the majority of media traded on these systems was copyrighted material. There may be non-infringing uses for both systems to trade uncopyrighted media, but the fact is that 99% of what was traded was copyrighted.

Now looked at YouTube. Are there complete movies or TV shows on YouTube? Are the most watched videos copyright material? It doesn't look like it to me. Therefore I feel like most of the site falls under the general theme that helped Sony win their case. That doesn't mean Google won't be sued. I just think it's not as clear cut a case for them to lose. In fact some have suggested that part of the reason for Google to buy YouTube is that they can better fund a legal case in a situation where they feel they can win. If YouTube went at it alone they could lose a case they should have won and in the process, they would set a precedent that would be difficult to rectify.

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