Activists sue Viacom over removal of YouTube video

It must be a wonderful time to be a copyright lawyer.

Just a week after Viacom began suing YouTube and its parent Google, alleging copyright infringment, two activist groups have launched a suit against Viacom, claiming that the cable network had no right to ask YouTube to remove a parody video which used portions of Viacom’s Colbert Report.

The activists say their use of Colbert was permitted under “fair use” provisions of copyright legislation. Viacom says it did not request removal of the video from YouTube and has no problem with it staying on YouTube.

It’s unclear whether the video was, in fact, ever removed from YouTube. It’s on the site now.

I can’t quite figure out its purpose though. The Colbert Report is already a parody. It’s sharp, funny and it’s a hit. The activists’ video, by comparision, just makes them look like they don’t get the joke.

Ganging up against YouTube

NBC and News Corp say they’ll supply video content, with commercials, to be distributed by MySpace, Yahoo, MSN and AOL. The new service is to be launched in a few months.

Apparently people will prefer this to watching the same content, without commercials, on YouTube. Or, if Viacom succeeds in its lawsuit, YouTube will be prevented from carrying the networks’ content.

Wendy Davis at MediaPost reports:

…shows that will be available via the joint venture include “Heroes,” “24,” “House,” “Saturday Night Live,” and “The Simpsons.” Movies slated for free distribution include “Borat,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Devil Wears Prada.” Cadbury Schweppes, Cisco, Esurance, Intel Corporation and General Motors have signed on as charter advertisers.

Could this be an attractive alternative to YouTube for the consumer? I think so. There’s certainly room to improve the user experience on YouTube, e.g. in terms of picture size, and searchability.

Viral video creator unrepentant

The creator of the “1984” mash-up video, which promotes US presidential hopeful Sen Barack Obama by attacking his rival Sen Hillary Clinton, was an employee of the firm that designed the Obama website.

Philip de Vellis, a strategist with Blue State Digital had his employment “terminated” after learning he was about to be unmasked by the Huffington Post. He then defended his actions in a posting on the blog.

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Viacom sues YouTube and Google for US$1 billion

Just six weeks after it demanded that Google remove all Viacom content from its YouTube video sharing site, Viacom has decided to take the dispute to court.

The company behind such hit TV shows as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has filed a lawsuit against YouTube and Google, alleging deliberate copyright infringement and seeking US$1 billion in compensation.

Last Saturday, Variety published an interesting look at the disconnect within Hollywood between marketers who promote their shows using YouTube and their studio legal departments who try to get content removed from the site.