My latest Guardian column, "Viacom v YouTube is a microcosm of the entertainment industry," examines the way that copyright law has encouraged Viacom to stop making and promoting programs in favor of making lawsuits:
Could it be that Viacom is suing YouTube for depriving it of revenue by allowing short clips from its properties to be viewed online, even as its production people are desperately trying to get as much of their video as possible on to YouTube?
Viacom v YouTube is a microcosm of the entertainment industry
I don't think it would be that hard to understand.
What if Viacom's frontline production people and even its mid-level execs have a theory about how to maximize shareholder value: they will produce things, make them well known, and stick ads on them to gain profits? They will seek out every conceivable opportunity to make their productions well-known, because though it may be hard to make money from popularity, it's impossible to make money from obscurity.
What if Viacom's senior execs have a different theory about how to maximize shareholder value: they will move against YouTube and other tech companies, using legal threats to extract maximum cash, even if this comes at the expense of popularity and income to the things that the company produces?
So if Levine is right, Viacom has two factions: one that wants to create and profit from television; and another that wants to create and profit from lawsuits.
Earlier this month, I gave the afternoon keynote at the Internet Archive’s Decentralized Web Summit, and my talk was about how the people who founded the web with the idea of having an open, decentralized system ended up building a system that is increasingly monopolized by a few companies — and how we can prevent the same things from happening next time.
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