One lawsuit or one video sharing site does not make or break Web 2.0

By Muhammad Saleem

Ethan Stanislawski, I see nothing but madness in your methods. Your article (“We’re Just a Lawsuit Away From Seeing the Limits of Web 2.0,” 2/2/07), when not marred by hyperbole, was full of factual inaccuracies.

For example, arguing that “YouTube…is just a lawsuit away from being completely disempowered” is simply not true. YouTube has been sued several times already, the first time being about eight months ago. Every lawsuit since then has either been thrown out of court or settled, and none of them has been able to check the growth of the video sharing site.

Your statement that “YouTube has thrived on an extremely tenuous legal precedent” is just a ludicrous opinion. Not only is the legal precedent completely sound, but YouTube policy quite categorically forbids copyrighted content to be uploaded to the site and with extreme regularity removes content that doesn’t concur with their policies.

While “researching” for this article, you may have come across a general description for Web 2.0, or Social Media. The technologies that these terms cover are generally community oriented and socially driven. Keeping in line with that, YouTube is largely self-policed by the community, which is responsible for flagging pornographic or copyrighted material. When the material has been appropriately flagged, YouTube has been rather swift to remove it from the site. Furthermore, every single time that a copyright holder has contacted YouTube with regard to violations, YouTube has taken steps to remove every single video in violation of its policies.

Perhaps you should pay more attention to the clauses that you are quoting. For example, you [reference the clause], “‘In a case in which the service provider has the right and the ability to control such activity.’” With over 65,000 videos uploaded to the site daily, I don’t think you want to claim that the site owners are able to moderate all these videos in an efficient manner that would still allow the site to retain its usefulness. Furthermore, it is easier to identify a pornographic clip from an episode of a television show then one on YouTube. I myself can scarcely distinguish a desperate housewife from a content one.

As for your dare to look at the the top 20 list, perhaps it was premature, or maybe you just didn’t expect someone to actually take you up on it, but here are the facts: At least seven of the videos were clearly not in violation of any copyright, and out of the other 13, they were clips from sporting events or clips from news broadcasts that have very little long-term value.

While you argue that Google’s purchase of YouTube clears the way “for a virtually infinite number of content owners to sue the pants off,” I think the case is actually quite the contrary. You wonder why it hasn’t happened already? Well, because no one in his right mind would want to go up against a company with over $11 billion in liquid assets available to fight a lawsuit.