Teh intarwebs are a funny series of tubes. By now, everyone who even remotely cares (and millions who don't) know that Viacom have launched a US$1 billion lawsuit against YouTube. The legal heavy hitting is all handled by Google lawyers who have been preparing for this battle for years – well before they bought YouTube.
It seems that one of Google's lawyers has a bit of a thing for foreskins. And as I’m one of the web’s renowned experts on the subject of foreskins he became a reader of my blog. And now he’s passed me some very interesting information.
"Hey," he emailed me, "you're a heavy YouTube user and you hate the maximalist approach to copyright enforcement, right? Well, you'll be interested in this: we record all our negotiations without the other party knowing. Here's the audio from our final discussion with Viacom before they launched their lawsuit."
And what a revelation that piece of audio was. Because not everyone is able to listen to audio, I'm posting a transcript here. That, and the fact that it's way easier for me to make up a transcript than it would be for me to fake the audio. The transcript starts at a pivotal point of the negotiation, when dollar amounts are being discussed.
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Google Lawyer: Look, we still say that your best option is to establish your own channel on YouTube. Promote the clips that you want to promote. Run competitions. We'll work with you to help you reach the community. This is a demographic you're desperate to reach. They're watching TV less and less. This is a golden opportunity for you to regain some relevance and maybe still be around in ten years.
Viacom Lawyer: But you're making money. And we're not getting any of it. You HAVE to give us money.
GL: We don't think that argument holds up legally. Plus, it's really gross the way you drool every time you mention money.
VL: You smug bastards! Do you know how much it pisses people off when you act like you can do whatever you want without asking? Even when you're right? Our legal opinion is that when you make ad revenue from a page that displays our content you owe us money. We think our argument is right because we make more money that way!
GL: Why do you not understand that this grows your audience, it doesn't take away from you? Some of your highest profile creators like the makers of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and South Park are on record as saying more distribution is better for them even when there's no direct remuneration. The bigger their audience, the more opportunities they have.
VL: Creators? Who gives a fuck what they think? We're the owners! Those bitches are bought and paid for. It's just as well they don't want any money from you because we aren't planning on giving them any. This is about VIACOM not those fuckers. They can't afford lawyers.
GL: OK, I'll tell you what we'll do. I'm about to show you a confidential document. We've developed a revenue sharing plan based around how Adsense works. If your content is really as valuable as you think then you'll make a packet from the ads that will feature on the same pages as your content. From our experience, these revenue projections are very accurate.
VL: But we demanded eleventy-squillion dollars! That figure is nowhere near eleventy-squillion.
GL: Well, first, eleventy-squillion isn't a real number. Second, that's our one and only offer. You take that or you take nothing.
VL: You can't talk like that to us! It's your arrogance that pisses us off as much as our content being stolen. That's why we're suing. We're going to prove you make your money by stealing from us.
GL: Sue all you like. Our arrogance is commensurate with our intelligence. Your aggressiveness is commensurate with your greed. We're going to defend ourselves based on law, not a sense of entitlement. Try actually reading the DMCA - we respond to any and all takedown requests and we're protected. It's there in black and white and it's backed up by legal precedents.
VL: You'd have nothing without all the copyrighted material on YouTube!
GL: That's a matter of opinion. Here's a statement of fact: you work with us on our terms or you get nothing.
VL: (walking out the door) We'll see you in court.
GL: Yeah, and we'll see you begging on the street in ten years after your company collapses into ruin because you couldn't adapt. And you know what? I'm going to piss in your begging bowl.
VL: (response not clearly audible - sounds like "you bitch")
GL: (shouting after departing Viacom lawyers) Here's a business plan you can have for free: develop a site more compelling than YouTube and you won't have to worry. Everyone will abandon YouTube and come to you instead. Good luck wrapping your head around that, you chump!
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I've always thought lawyers were boring but it seems that sometimes they get to have some real fun.