Editorial: Viacom’s Unethical and Infringing Behavior

Dear Readers,

As you are likely aware, the VGAs were this past Saturday on Spike TV. You may also be aware that Spike (and GameTrailers) are owned by media giant Viacom.

Viacom has earned itself a reputation for vigorously defending its intellectual property, especially when it comes to YouTube. Any videos featuring content owned by them are going to be taken down in minutes, and that is most certainly their right. The way intellectual property law is structured now leaves it incumbent to the copyright owner to protect themselves, and Viacom has it down to a science. We have no problem with the company protecting themselves. It’s too easy these days for unauthorized intellectual property to get out into the wild, with the copyright owner receiving no proceeds. In our industry, we talk about piracy all the time and, as far as Viacom is concerned, it’s the exact same thing.

As you might expect, after the VGAs we received press communications from nearly every publisher that had a trailer debut at the event. As we always do, we downloaded those trailers, posted them to our YouTube channel and embedded them in our news stories. We’ve never had a problem until yesterday. You may have had a problem accessing one or more of the videos we posted. This is why:

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You’re reading that correctly. For this video and a number of others, Viacom claimed that we were in violation of their copyright by posting the videos. To be absolutely clear, Viacom has no ownership of the material sent to us by the publishers and we are using the videos in compliance with the publishers wishes. We certainly make no claim to own the videos that publishers share with us to post. We understand that they are the property of the publisher. Clearly, though, Viacom does not.

The company must believe that they own the rights to any video that aired on one of their networks, that they own the letters “VGA” (which we included for proper classification and attribution) or both. This is clearly an overreach and not at all what YouTube’s systems for intellectual property protection were intended for.

We apologize if you had issues accessing the videos and if you continue to experience difficulty. We have utilized the dispute system in place at YouTube to regain access to these videos, but Viacom is still dragging its feet on a couple of the videos. We will keep you posted on any developments.

Thank you for your continued readership.

Yours in gaming,

Michael Futter
Reviews Editor and Community Manager

Update: I just spoke with Arne Meyer from Naughty Dog. He tipped me off to this latest development in Viacom’s crusade against people owning their own IP.

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Update @ 7:25 PM EST: Apparently, Viacom has decided to claim copyright again. Same trailer… this time on the GameTrailers YouTube channel. GameTrailers is owned by Viacom. More as we know it.

Update @ 6:00 AM EST, 12/14/11: Sometime overnight, Naughty Dog’s YouTube channel was freed up from copyright dispute. In addition, the two videos that we were waiting on have also come out of dispute status and are free to view. Thanks to all of you who Tweeted and Facebooked about this. Hopefully, this won’t happen again.

Written by
Mike is the Reviews Editor and former Community Manager for this fine, digital establishment. You can find him crawling through dungeons, cruising the galaxy in the Normandy, and geeking it out around a gaming table.

Have your say!

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  1. I’m assuming that last line was sarcasm? Viacom has been on a takedown crusade for years, and won’t let up anytime soon. Google needs to hire REAL people to handle copyright claims instead of trusting Viacom and their own computer systems.

    Sigh… I wish I had the kind of power Viacom does.

    • Just a little bit of sarcasm. I try to be hopeful, though, that with such big names being hit by Viacom that more powerful people than I will take notice.

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