“YouTube Depends on Us”

That is what Michael Frackas, general counsel for Viacom, asserts in his opinion piece in The Washington Post. Here is a brief summary of the article via Slashdot:

Fricklas asserts that the DMCA’s ‘safe harbor’ provisions don’t apply because YouTube is knowledgeable to infringement and furthermore derives financial benefit from it. He also argues that putting the onus of spotting infringement onto the content providers represents an undue burden on them. Fricklas caps the argument by stating, ‘Google and YouTube wouldn’t be here if not for investment in software and technologies spurred by patent and copyright laws.’

And, alternatively, Viacom would not be here if we didn’t watch their content. Given this fact, might we begin to suggest that they are beginning to fear spaces like YouTube that provide an open marketplace for user generated content that will quickly overshadow their own piece of the entertainment market? At the heart of the issue is that companies like Viacom want to make it more and more difficult for the emerging participatory culture of the web to congregate around spaces that feature user-generated content. Fear and terror in relationship to copyright is one way to accomplish this. Unfortunately it is not necessarily novel in our day and age. Let’s face it, how many people use YouTube to watch TV? It is primarily a destination for connecting with other user-generated content. There are a lot of amazing videos that do not depend upon the conglomerated media companies -see the Web 2.0 Online Learning Film Festival for some impressive examples.

What universities need to do is foster and promote individuals who want to broadcast their own vision for entertaining, sharing, and educating the public outside of the overly oppressive strictures of copyright. Why don’t they start using their position as institutions of education to join the discussion more directly by encouraging their faculty and students to become a part of this conversation? We are at a moment where Public “Television” can be reinvented, let’s not leave it to the wolves to dictate the terms of this conversation!

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