Viacom Sues Google and Loses -- What a Wasted Opportunity

Last Updated Jun 23, 2010 8:28 PM EDT

The drawn-out copyright lawsuit that Viacom (VIA) brought against Google (GOOG) is finally over, with the search giant officially down as winner. It's no real surprise. The tragedy is that had executives at Viacom been less interested in testosterone-fueled dominance and more open to negotiating a smart deal, both sides could have avoided wasted time and made money in the process.

The judge granted Google's motion for summary judgment based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor provisions.

Viacom-Google summary judgement opinion Cutting through the legalese, Google followed the letter of the DMCA. It provided a platform on which users could post and access material, and did not monitor the content, but accepted infringement complaints and removed material that infringed copyright.

Viacom wanted to convince the court that Google should have known and liked to make advertising money off its video clips that appeared on YouTube -- which was nothing compared to the enormous volume uploaded every day. It wanted the court to treat Google differently than the law specified, and so was disappointed.

Viacom didn't use common sense and didn't think through how strongly the law stood on Google's side. This was a classic case of a corporate pissing match. Had Viacom executives really been interested in the welfare of the company, they'd have realized that trying to stop out all cases of infringement would be impossible. Instead of doing the impossible, they would have focused on the possible -- setting up their own clips on YouTube, sharing ad revenue with the large audiences that Google could provide, and then using links to bring consumers to Viacom's own site for complete programs and accompanying advertising. They could have turned the situation into a business triumph. Only, winning the ego game was more important, and, as a result, Viacom lost it all.

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  • Erik Sherman On Twitter»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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