The Right to Stay Silent

13 03 2007

By Derek Beres

When an industry superpower begins to lose power, they do not go down gracefully. Very often large corporations go through a process of reversion, displaying tendencies and attitudes applicable to three-year-old children that throw hissy fits because they cannot get their way. Such is the story of Viacom.

The business giant, which counts MTV as one of its main sources of revenue, is suing Google for $1 billion. The basis is of the suit is that some 160,000 “illegal” clips from Viacom-owned networks are free floating in cyberspace on the Google-owned site YouTube. They’re claiming Google does not monitor what is loaded online, and does not enforce strict-enough policies regarding copyrighted material. They then use the amount of traffic on their site as a basis for advertising revenues.

Basically, they’re doing what Viacom wants to have the power to, but didn’t figure it out first.

While no superpower is free from sin, Google is the closest thing to a widespread democracy existing online. They have created a search engine that is used by hundreds of millions of people daily, weaving adverts into the actual content in a way that we both know is there and yet is not offensive. They bought a true democratic machine in YouTube: an online network where people (although, as the industry would dub us, “consumers”) can share and explore, learn new things, hell, even laugh once in a while.

The unfortunate weight of copyrights is the massive struggle for intellectual property. Whether Viacom owns a show or an idea, they are vehement in keeping it their own. Unfortunately, this form of greed is by no way limited to that company. The technological era coincides with the rise in the fight for ownership; America has become a tense, terse little brat of a nation in many ways. We have an idea and before thinking it through, the first thing we do is copyright it. Problem is, ideas, like all forms of property, eventually disintegrate; the other problems is, of course, there are a lot of bad ideas floating around. The best ones are open for everyone to explore.

Big ups to Google for creating a network that is accessible and enjoyable and, in the truer senses of the word, democratic. Underneath the mounds and mounds of paperwork they’re going to have to sift through to deal with this and other similar suits, I can only hope that underneath all the verbatim and contracts, the judge sees a human heart beating beneath.

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