While the Internet promotes creativity and diffusion of ideas and entertainment, it has also enabled widespread dissemination of copyrighted materials. This class action lawsuit filed by Viacom International Inc. against Youtube in 2005 details the large-scale infringement Youtube has committed against music, film, and television companies. Although Youtube claims the websites purpose is to provide a forum for "user generated" material, the website contains innumerable copyrighted content. One could view clips from every genre of film or television and music clips from live shows or music videos. The plaintiffs hold Youtube responsible because they have enabled the format for such infringement without assuming the responsibility of monitoring the content. Furthermore, the plaintiffs argue "the availability on the Youtube site of a vast library of the copyrighted work is the cornerstone of the Defendant's business plan." Because Youtube makes significant profit off of these copyrighted works, they leave it to law abiding individuals and copyright owners to monitor the site. Even if the site removes the illegal content once notified, it usually returns to the site within no time. Moreover, Youtube has devised a feature that precludes copyright owners from finding infringing videos.
Viacom holds Youtube responsible because the site "knowingly reproduces and publicly performs the copyrighted works" and allows for extended distribution by enabling one to "embed" a video into another website. Although users are the ones who originally upload the content, Youtube converts the material to their own software format for display and reproduction. More importantly, such websites dissuade people from producing creative works in fear their copyrights will be violated and subject to egregious exploitation. Youtube acknowledges such illegality by sending cease and desist letters to people who provide software that can be used to make copies of Youtube's videos. Youtube sites that such copies are "unauthorized" yet the plaintiffs recognize that Youtube does not want such copies available because they need viewers for their own site to retain advertising revenues. As compensation for Youtube's violations, the plaintiffs order that the defendants device a system to prevent infringement and provide statutory damages for past and present infringements amounting to at least one billion dollars.
This lawsuit directly pertains to my paper in that it shows the legal measures the film industry is taking to combat piracy. Because my paper also focuses on the evolution of the industry in this online world, it is important to note the setbacks such technological develoments have caused for the industry.
The Internet is forcing the movie industry to adapt its current business model in order to keep up with the online trend. With the growing popularity of online movie download sites, Hollywood will have to figure out a way to compete. This article featured in The Economist argues that if the film industry embraces the Internet they will profit considerably more than if they were to fight it. One of the most advanced Internet distribution sites is ZML.com, which offers over a thousand films for download to various devices at low costs and good quality. Unfortunately for Hollywood, this website is a pirate site. Piracy and the increased accessibility pirates have to online material discourages the film industry from making titles accessible on the web. While film industry has always been slow to accept new technologies, failure to do so with the Internet could result in damaging effects. The article points out that studios such as Paramount and Disney were opposed to the DVD at its inception, primarily because they would rather keep their stringent business model than adapt to a new one. Still, some studios are embracing the Internet and its potential to spur new revenue.
While some studios have helped to create legal online rental services, they have reaped little success. The author suggests that download-to-buy options would be more profitable and could show the movie industry the capabilities of the Internet. In addition, the current sites are not particularly enticing for users because the movies offered are second-rate--with very few blockbusters or major hits available. The article goes on to explain the reasons for Hollywood's reluctance to go online. Most notably, the DVD industry is so popular that they fear risking such a large source of revenue. In reality, the industry could profit by increasing the amount of titles available through an infinite online database rather than through limited shelf space in DVD rental stores. Regardless, there exists technological obstacles that are difficult to combat. For example, download times can reach up to an hour and most people would rather watch movies on their televisions than on their computers. Lastly, the "lack of common standards" prevents a uniform system for online distributors. Despite these challenges, the article points out the potential remedies and the various ways the industry is currently taking steps towards overcoming these difficulties.
Although wary of what the Internet may bring, the industry recognizes its potential to reach the masses. Studios spend a significant percentage on online marketing because it is so successful and provides beneficial feedback. By targeting substantial groups interested in specific subjects, the industry can use this response to shape their films. The most promising invention described is the flash-memory enabled kiosk, which "overcomes many of the weaknesses of the present model and the current deficencies of the Internet," says Mr. Lieberfarb, who is on the board of MOD Systems.This article directly aids my paper through its summarization of the multitude of adaptations and inventions that film industry has had to make in such a digital world. It is apparent that the movie industry must adapt if it does not want to falter in this digitally advancing society.