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Is Google the “government of the Internet?” So complains David Milman–chief executive of Rescuecom, a company that lost a lawsuit to Google over trademark and search terms–in this New York Times article. In terms of its seeming invulnerability from the consequences of living life on the Internet’s bleeding egde, fighting Google has indeed seemed impossible.
Google has a policy of aggressively fighting lawsuits in an effort
to shape fledgling Internet legal precedent in ways that will be
favorable to the company in the future. So far it has been rather
brash, but also remarkably successul. You get the idea that Milman
isn’t the only one who thinks of Google as invincible. But the company
may be facing its biggest legal challenge yet: will YouTube be the
hurdle that takes the swagger out of Google?
Mark Cuban certainly thinks the acquisition was a mistake. In fact, his exact term was “moronic.”
The man who sold his own video streaming company, Broadcast.com, to
Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in 1999 (and is now the owner of the Dallas
Mavericks) says the business model of YouTube (and Google Video) is
seriously flawed. They’re fooling themselves when they say that the
appeal of their content is based on amateur, uncopyrighted material or
that there’s any kind of YouTube community beyond click-and-run
voyeurs. Face it, he says: people come to take advantage of the
copyrighted, professionally produced stuff before it’s removed.
YouTube has so far been taking advantage of the “safe harbor”
provision of the 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which frees the
service from liability as long as it removes infringing material as
soon as it’s notified, and the fact that it has had no real money for
copyright owners to go after.
Now, the requests have been pouring in more quickly, threatening the
arbitrage effect YouTube has ridden to become wildly popular. And
Google has supplied the deep pockets that encourages litigation. So
basically, YouTube’s major source of popularity is being threatened
while making it a more appealing target at the same time.
If anyone can pull it off, Google can. But this might be one of its toughest challenges yet.