Google faces copyright fight over YouTube
· Time Warner upset over the use of its material
· 100m videos under scrutiny for breaches
Friday October 13, 2006
GuardianDick Parsons, the chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, fired a shot across the bows of Google, saying his group would pursue its copyright complaints against the video sharing site YouTube.com.
Google paid $1.6bn for YouTube this week amid concerns that some of the fledgling website's 100m videos breached copyright rules. Time Warner, the media and entertainment group that owns the Warner Brothers movie studio, Time Inc magazines and the HBO TV channel, is one of several large media companies concerned about possibly illegal use of its material on YouTube.
Mr Parsons told the Guardian: "You can assume we're in negotiations with YouTube and that those negotiations will be kicked up to the Google level in the hope that we can get to some acceptable position."
He denied the decision to pursue any potential infringement had been prompted by this week's acquisition. Google, whose core search function attracted 204 million users in August, four times those who used YouTube, has a higher market capitalisation than Time Warner. "We were going to pursue it anyway," he said. "If you let one thing ignore your rights as an owner it makes it much more difficult to defend those rights when the next guy comes along."
He took a more emollient stance than some when he said: "We'd like to have our content displayed on these platforms, but on a basis that it respects our rights as the owner of that content."
This echoes many of his media peers, who are keen to come to some agreement with sites such as YouTube, which has 35 million regular users. However, Doug Morris, the chief executive of Universal Music, attacked YouTube and MySpace, the social networking site bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation last year, as "copyright infringers" at an investors' conference last month. News Corp is understood to be talking to Google about the possibility of extending an existing advertising deal involving MySpace. News executives say 60-70% of YouTube's traffic comes from the social network site.
With clips limited to 10 minutes maximum, many of the most popular videos on YouTube are music or humour based. Some music companies have recently signed revenue-sharing arrangements with YouTube. Warner Music, which is no longer part of Time Warner, agreed to make its music video library available to YouTube this month in one of the site's earliest commercial agreements. The deal was followed by agreements with Sony BMG and US television channel CBS.
Mr Parsons said that, like many media companies, Time Warner had looked at buying YouTube but balked at the price. "The best buyer for YouTube was Google because it has the most advanced ability right now to monetise traffic. Whether they overpaid or not, time will tell."
Both YouTube and Google, which has also come under fire for infringing copyright, remove content where breaches can be demonstrated.
Mr Parsons said Time Warner looked at "everything" when it came to acquisitions. But it was unlikely to be interested in ITV, which did not meet the US group's financial or operational disciplines. The hiatus at the top of the organisation is understood to be a deterrent to potential bidders. He has expanded Time Warner's cable operations and signed off a radical overhaul of its struggling AOL internet business, but said he had concerns about the "broadcast business" more generally.
Google is facing legal challenges to Google News and Google Books.
YouTube founder Chad Hurley has also sought to play down copyright fears. "We're committed to developing tools to identify the content and monetise it so [content owners] can have a new outlet for their content."