HUA HIN, Thailand - A US$1 billion lawsuit against the popular video sharing
website YouTube threatens the freedom of information exchange on the Internet,
according to its owners, Google.
Viacom issued the copyright infringement suit last month, claiming that it has
identified 150,000 unauthorized clips on the website. Google's response claims
that the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects YouTube and that the
lawsuit "threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange
information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression".
Many of the clips identified were TV-related, such as from MTV or shows like South
Park, and included some from the documentarycontent above
An Inconvenient Truth which alone had been viewed 1.5 billion times. The
rewritten suit accuses YouTube of consistently broadcasting unauthorized copies
of popular television shows and movies and allowing them to be viewed tens of
thousands of times.
It claims to be protecting the interests of anyone who owns copyrighted
material, as Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone stated earlier this month: "When
we filed this lawsuit, we not only served our own interests, we served the
interests of everyone who owns copyrights they want protected."
Google claims it simply provides the tools and what its users do is their
business, though the company does respond to specific requests for content
removal and has installed anti-piracy tools that check uploaded videos against
the original content in an effort to flag piracy.
This kind of litigation could pave the way for thousands of others to jump on
the bandwagon if Viacom is successful. The web has such a vast array of
information exchange portals and digital data is so easy to duplicate that
there will be some overlapping of content, especially if Internet TV becomes
popular, which it inevitably will. Naturally Google is the biggest bull's eye
with the biggest bank balance and Viacom wants to be seen as trying to set an
example, but really where does it end?
It certainly doesn't end on the grand scale, as housewives have been sued for
millions of dollars for downloading music files to listen to on their MP3
players. There needs to be a clear-cut definition of these copyright
infringement laws as broadcasting pirate material to huge audiences for great
profit (or ad revenue) is a little different to a teenager downloading the
latest Hollywood flick via a peer-to-peer system such as Bit Torrent to watch
in his room.
Maybe the likes of Google are aware of the flaws in the system and just go
ahead knowing they'll be sued but have enough pocket change to cover it. When
you're big enough to get sued you're big enough to fight back, so the likes of
YouTube initiating a theft-based business model to start with may not have been
a bad idea!
All this does is leave the individual with less choice and while the giants are
throwing rocks around someone else will be thinking of the next big thing and
how long it will take before he or she gets sued for it.
Microsoft has unleashed the power of the finger by demonstrating its latest
touch-screen technology with Windows 7, which is due for release during 2010.
Chairman Bill Gates and chief executive Steve Ballmer showcased the system this
week at the sixth annual All Things Digital conference (D6) in San Diego,
describing it as a small snippet of things to come. It is hoped that the next
Microsoft operating system will have much more success than the current one,
despite the company having sold 140 million Vista licenses.
The fingertip interface boasts a number of features, including the ability to
enlarge and shrink photos, trace routes on maps, paint pictures or play the
piano. Touch screens will revolutionize how computer desktops are controlled
and provide the next technological step away from mouse, keyboard and pen based
interfaces. Microsoft is deliberately keeping relatively quiet about Windows 7
to avoid a repeat of all the hype surrounding the launch of Vista and to ensure
it can ship everything it promises in late 2009 or early 2010.
Aside from the system being fun to play with, we're hoping Windows 7 has a lot
more under the hood than fancy finger work. It needs to be able to justify the
hassle and expense of the inevitable new hardware requirements, purchase of
touch sensitive screens and the constant cleaning of finger marks to live up to
hype and save it from the same fate as its predecessor.
Hard-disk technology took another jump this week as Samsung announce a 256
gigabyte solid state drive (SSD). The company claims to have the fastest SSD on
the market with a blistering 200 megabytes per second data transfer rate.
Samsung announced the new drive at the Samsung Mobile Solution Forum in Taipei
and stated that it will be putting this new 256GB model in 1.8-inch and
They will go into mass production by the end of the year. The current market
speed limitation for solid state drives is around the 130 MB/s mark with
traditional drives such as Western Digital's Velociraptor reaching 100 MB/s.
Samsung did not give any hints regarding the cost of its new baby but there is
little hope that it will be less than $1,000.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.