February 2, 2007 6:48 PM PST

Does YouTube have a control problem?

Victor Rook, an independent filmmaker for 24 years, woke up Friday, logged on to YouTube and found out that a major media conglomerate had accused him of copyright violations.

"This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material," YouTube wrote to Rook in an e-mail, which was obtained by CNET News.com. The trailer for his documentary was removed because Viacom had claimed that his documentary had infringed on the company's copyright. Rook said not one frame or one piece of music from his film about a gay professional wrestler belonged to Viacom.

Rook's film clip was mistakenly pulled as part of YouTube's effort to sweep the site of content owned by Viacom, he said. (YouTube did not return an e-mail requesting more information about about why Rook's clip was taken down.)

ZDNet reported that another YouTube user was accused of violating Viacom's copyright when he posted a video of a "Sunday night dinner at Redbones in Somerville, Mass." The man denied that there is anything of Viacom's in his "friends and family" video.

The parent company of Comedy Central and Nickelodeon demanded Friday that YouTube remove 100,000 clips from the site that feature Viacom shows. The number of videos is three times more than the 30,000 videos that the Japanese entertainment industry demanded YouTube pull last October.

"I know it was probably an accident that mine got taken down," said Rook, 43, adding that he's nonetheless disappointed. He added that he wonders whether the video-sharing company has enough control over the site.

Control has been a central issue during YouTube's rapid evolution as the Internet's first real entertainment network. For instance, big entertainment companies have always wanted YouTube to exercise more control over users who post pirated clips from some of the entertainment industry's hottest shows. The break with Viacom has some analysts wondering whether the lack of authority over what happens on the site may hurt the year-old YouTube as it negotiates licensing agreements with major film studios and TV networks.

"The paradox for YouTube is that they need to figure out how to play well with the big boys," said Todd Chanko, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "These legal cases and public relation troubles will continue to hurt their image with the large media companies."

Executives at YouTube, acquired by Google for $1.65 billion last October, have steadfastly argued that it's not their job to police their site. As an Internet service provider, YouTube says the law doesn't hold the company responsible for the actions of its users, but will quickly respond to complaints by copyright holders.

"We take copyright issues very seriously," a YouTube spokesman said in a statement on Thursday. "We prohibit users from uploading infringing material, and we cooperate with copyright holders to identify and promptly remove infringing content."

But as YouTube's leaders seek partnerships that would give the video-sharing site access to professionally crafted content, they may find that adhering to the strict letter of the law won't make them many friends in Hollywood, where they want tough protections for their materials.

YouTube doesn't prescreen any of the more than 60,000 videos posted to the site each day. The company relies on content holders and users to report any violations of the company's terms of use. This, say YouTube critics, does not adequately safeguard copyright. An example of how long unauthorized video can stay on the site without being flagged came Thursday.

For the past three months, an employee at Gawker Media has posted video clips onto YouTube from TV shows produced by such companies as NBC, CBS, CNN and ABC, CNET News.com reported Thursday. Two copyright holders, including a Fox affiliate in New York, said that Gawker, which operates 14 blogs, including Valleywag and Fleshbot, was unauthorized to use their material.

Gawker Media owner Nick Denton has acknowledged that an employee posted the videos. He has declined to comment on why the employee posted the clips.

The poster added a new twist to uploading unauthorized copyright material by inserting into the clips advertisements for Gawker-owned blogs. Two videos about comedienne Rosie O'Donnell were each viewed more than 400,000 times.

Executives at two companies said they wanted to know how the videos could go unnoticed for three months and how can copyright owners prevent others from repeating the tactic.

"We showed (the videos posted to YouTube by the Gawker employee) to some of our legal and tech people," said one executive at a major media conglomerate. "They couldn't believe it. They also couldn't believe it hasn't happened before. They hated that someone was doing it, but one guy admitted he thought it was brilliant."

Unclear is whether some of the bigger media companies plan to respond to the postings.

Chanko said the case is an example of just how difficult it can be to protect copyright in environments like YouTube's.

"There's just no bonafide system available that would enable YouTube to monitor all the video on its site," Chanko said. "There are attempts to create intelligent video sensing...who knows? Maybe in five years we'll see it."

See more CNET content tagged:
Viacom Inc., YouTube, holder, public relations, entertainment

13 comments

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who really wants to use youtube anyway??
I certainly don't. But I do. There is heavily restricted, or non existent, access to 90% of the copyrighted content that people view on Youtube, and it's even worse if you don't live in the US.

If media producers would provide easy, accessible, and reasonably priced on demand content for *all* of their media, no matter what country, I for one would never visit Youtube to watch it's low quality, small sized, videos again.

If they had done this way before Youtube took hold, 75% of the population wouldn't even know what Youtube was.
Posted by matted (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tube is good
i spent most of a weekend on ???? on YouTUbe.
I wonder if TVB gave them rights to host them.
Posted by hunter_jc (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gawker Piracy as Business Practice
Hi-

I have visited the Gawker offices in new york, and was astounded to see that they have an entire operation setup to rip the most popular TV programming using a Linux DVR, and then liberally steal, edit and post the content online within YouTube and their own sites. It is clearly a well thought out business practice by Gawker.
Posted by MaxMan2002 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gawker Piracy as Business Practice
I have visited the Gawker offices in new york, and was astounded to see that they have an entire operation setup to rip the most popular TV programming using a Linux DVR, and then liberally steal, edit and post the content online within YouTube and their own sites.
Posted by MaxMan2002 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Boycotting
Companies like Viacom will soon lose myriads of consumer dues to their inability to relate. There is a huge generation gaps, it helps to explain the action that Viacom takes. I however don't think I ever own or product from Viacom so i really don't care what they do, but any companies that take an open shot at Youtube in trying to take them down for copy right infringment will no doubts regrets the day that they did. the supporters of youtube is worldwide.
Posted by liemster (2 comments )
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Re:Boycotting
All the grammatical errors aside, your message has no basis in fact. The generation gap does not explain Viacom's actions at all. Rather, the decision to ask YouTube to pull the material was a calculated business decision. Viacom is either using this as a tactic to obtain a better bargaining position for negotiating licensing agreements, or to establish a precedent that Viacom videos will only be available from Viacom and the future video sharing website that they might release.

When you say that you do not own any Viacom products, I?ll take it to mean that you do not own any DVDs produced by them. However, a great deal of their money comes from commercials during shows like, "The Daily Show". So your boycotting idea will only work if youTube users stop watching Comedy Central, MTV, and stop going to see Paramount Picture movies.
Posted by zerofreeze (2 comments )
Link Flag
Copyrights
I heard copyrights were here for a reason, to encourage creation and to help artists and all that.

But, each time I hear about them being used, I only feel that they are wrong.
Posted by airwalkery2k (117 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Then you're not a creator...
Let put this in perspective.
Supposes as an independent film maker, you go out, buy a 10-15K hi-def camera and editing equiptment. You spend another 10-15K renting lights, trailer, etc to do your short indy clip.

You put it on your own website which is subsidized by advertisements. (Which is how you will fund your next project...)

Then you find that some maroon posted your work on UTube.

Get the picture?
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Link Flag
Does uTube Have a Control Problemo
yes and I love it. may censorship never gain too much ground in America.
Posted by PrissyPatriot (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Copyright != censorship
The Viacom complaint is about Viacom's ability to benefit financially from its copyrighted material. It has nothing to do with censorship.
Posted by jp10293847 (25 comments )
Link Flag
Victor Rook isn't the only one
My video, an original work (animation and music), was also pulled down, despite having absolutely no connection with any Viacom content. Regardless of when or how Viacom resolve this, in the meantime anyone who follows the link to my video is seeing a defamatory statement that the IP belongs to Viacom, and not to myself.

I wonder how many other people have been falsely accused? This is not acceptable behaviour from either Viacom (for making the false statement) or from Youtube (for making the defamation public).
Posted by jaegercat (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
you + me = same boat
I totally agree. I'm such a sucker for youtube. Let's hope this
period of turmoil doesn't destroy youtube until they figure out a
way to let people watch what they want and let the right people get
the ad money. I like the movies, Family Guy clips, Star Wars
parodies, music videos, etc. and this is just another venue for
showing them like television or now the network sites showing full
episodes. Any company that lets its lawyers run the show deserves
a whack on the head.
Posted by scottk0640 (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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