While amateur filmmakers and webcam addicts want more exposure on Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) YouTube, the same doesn't apply to entertainment giants. Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) wants the site to pull down more than 100,000 videos that infringe on its cable properties.
It's easy to see things from Viacom's perspective. Some of the most-watched clips on any given day are Comedy Central segments that were illegally uploaded to the site. Users are warned during the submission process not to upload content that they do not own, but the popular video-sharing site leans on its viewers to flag the errant clips. Handing the entertainment-happy inmates the keys to the asylum is usually not a good idea.
Viacom's other properties include MTV and Nickelodeon. A spot check this morning found thousands of SpongeBob videos and more than 50,000 clips with an MTV tag.
The measures appear to be a dramatic contrast to what Viacom's sister company -- CBS (NYSE: CBS ) -- has been doing. CBS has been an active promoter on the site and is actually the third most subscribed channel on YouTube.
Will Viacom and Google come to blows over this? YouTube has been discussing content-filtering software and drawing up revenue-sharing agreements. Obviously, the copyright trampling continues, though we don't know how far along the two parties are in terms of potential revenue-sharing deals. Either way, if a deal would call for Viacom getting a piece of the ad action whether it uploads its own content or not, that would require the content-identification application to be functional. In other words, it's a bit of a Catch-22 because at that point, YouTube would have the prowess to block the pirated streams.
Viacom is in the process of trying to launch its own video-sharing site. This move may be tied to that initiative, but it's still got the upper hand with the copyright accusations. Yes, I think Viacom is nuts to be nipping about brief, often homemade clips that its own fans have made. Do you really want to alienate the viewers who are so enamored with your shows that they are freely spreading the word -- or, in Stephen Colbert's case, "The Word" -- to others?
You've got a big stick here, Viacom. Make sure you don't club the same people you will need later on.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't necessarily set his watch to YouTube, but he does respect its place in the grander scope of things. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.