YouTube doesn’t feel like a pirate site. I know, I know. Viacom will say it is. But it doesn’t feel like those naughty peer-to-peer sites where you have to know a secret password and duck down a dark alley of the Web to use.
Today, Viacom filed a lawsuit against YouTube seeking more than $1 billion in damages for copyright violation, contending that nearly 160,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom programming have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times on YouTube.
I’m wondering how Viacom tracked down all those clips. I’m picturing an army of sweat shop workers in a windowless office probably in the basement of Viacom’s corporate offices plugging away “South Park” and “Laguna Beach” and “Jon Stewart” into YouTube’s search bar to track down those 160,000 clips.
The fact is, it’s probably easy for them to find the unauthorized clips on YouTube. That’s because it’s just plain easy to find video on YouTube. That’s why YouTube has become and likely will remain the first and foremost stop on the Web for finding video. And that’s why I hope big media and YouTube can work it all out and be friends, so we can continue to have a resource on the Web.
So I’ll go first here. I’ll step into the circle and admit my own piracy culpability. First, let it be said that I am opposed to piracy. I don’t buy illegal DVDs, I don’t watch pirated DVDs. I have no problem paying $1.99 for a TV show on iTunes.
But sometimes if I just want to see a certain scene from a movie I’ll check if it’s on YouTube. I watched “The Departed” over the weekend and went to YouTube last night to look up “The Departed.” And I found not only a cleverly edited two-minute clip of nearly every example of the script’s favorite word (Yes, it takes at least two full minutes to include every utterance), but I also located several posts of scenes from the movie. I watched a few—the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio asks Vera Farmiga for valium and the scene where Jack Nicholson tells Leo that he has an “informer in his unit.”
So that’s my confession. I hope Warner Brothers doesn’t come sue me now. Now it’s your turn. I want to hear from the media executives out there who I suspect are also going to YouTube to look up a clip or two, a scene here or there. You don’t have to use your name, but c’mon lob in a comment here—admit it and tell us that you’re a closet pirate too.