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Viacom Tries to Play Hardball With GooTube

After not getting its way in negotiations with YouTube (details, anyone?), Viacom has demanded that YouTube remove 100,000 unauthorized Viacom clips.  Although this is probably little more than another negotiating tactic (like the preposterous idea floated a few months ago about the creation of a Big Media YouTube Clone), it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

YouTube could presumably argue that, legally, it is not responsible for what individuals choose to upload (as long as its user-agreements make clear that they aren’t allowed to upload pirated clips).  Unlike the file-sharing start-up-of-the-month, moreover, YouTube has the resources to make sure that a court battle drags on for years–at which point Viacom and every other network will probably be paying YouTube for distribution rather than the other way around.

Viacom presumably knows at least the first part of this (and is presumably in denial about the possibility of the “one day we’ll be paying YouTube for distribution” part).  So one wonders just how far it will go to force YouTube to remove all the offending content.  And in the meantime, of course, it will sacrifice the promotion, revenue, and viewer goodwill that it would have gotten had it found a way to agree to play ball.

As for YouTube, meanwhile, one wonders whether content removal can be automated–a simple search and delete?–or whether the company will have to hire an airplane hangar full of full-time censors.  Either way, even though the Viacom content is reportedly among the site’s most popular, YouTube will obviously do just fine without it.  In the world of video clips, Viacom’s just a bit player.

UPDATE

YouTube caved.  Which means Viacom’s clip library will now be less valuable than it would otherwise be (even with no revenue share, the clips no doubt generated some brand value, user familiarity, advertising, etc.)  For the sake of users, let’s hope the two parties soon kiss and make up.

Anyone know the details of how YouTube removes 100,000 files in one go?  Automated or by hand?

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