Saturday, November 14, 2009

Viacom GC speaks on copyright and fair use

I just came across this very interesting lecture Viacom General Counsel Mike Fricklas recently gave at Yale College. Fricklas touches on such issues as why his company views piracy as a threat; what he sees as the biggest current problems (I anticipate a lot of action regarding "cyberlockers" like over the next couple years); how DRM (done right) enables business models; and how companies like Viacom rely on and indeed celebrate fair use. It's about 37 minutes long and definitely worth watching:

(Corrected to indicate that the lecture occurred at Yale College, not the law school.)


  1. I honestly don't have a problem with companies protecting their content like they have under YouTube and other UGC sites.

    My problem lies in the inherent flaw most implementations of their protection schemes have: platform support. The way all current systems of protection work, they require the Windows platform to work or stand alone devices.

    The evidence couldn't be any more obvious than the Blu-Ray protection scheme. While it does use Java, discs do NOT play on any system except Windows ones with CERTAIN video players or sit top boxes.

    My primary system to use is a Linux system, and my ability to watch content is hampered a great deal because I do not like the other platforms. I frankly cannot afford a Mac (and Apple worries me a bit, with some of their policies), and Windows is something that I feel I'm better without.

    I want to have that content accessible to me, on my platform of choice. However, I doubt that will happen since Linux users are not taken very seriously by big companies.

    A good example would be Netflix. They use Silverlight and the DRM system that is usable though it to deliver content to users. However, Silverlight is unavailable on Linux with all the features necessary to play movies from Netflix. We do have a Silverlight implementation called Moonlight, but it isn't complete, and it isn't likely that the DRM library would be implemented, since it requires a prohibitive amount of work to implement safely.

    What I want to see is Blu-Ray discs coming with a player RIGHT ON THE DISC that is usable in Windows, Mac, and Linux, so that nobody is really excluded from being able to watch high definition movies on their computer.

    As for legal movies available through online distribution, I want to see companies opening up to Linux platform. Hulu is taking steps, I'll grant them that much. The Hulu Desktop for Linux application was a nice touch, and I do appreciate things like that.

    I want Netflix and other companies with similar models to be able to offer services indiscriminately. Nobody should be forced to use a certain type of system to access content that they either paid for or are being offered to watch.

    All companies are guilty of being stupid. That is no reason to call them evil. The problem lies in their ability to recognize their stupidity and then fix the errors they made.

    The music industry is learning quite well, and I hope other industries do as well.

  2. Mr. Sheffner, this wasn't a class at Yale Law School, but an undergraduate course at Yale College. The course, "Intro to Law and Technology," taught by Brad Rosen and Elizabeth Stark, has a website here:

  3. Adi:

    Are you sure? The info section on the YouTube watch page, which is maintained by Yale itself, says, "Michael Fricklas, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Viacom, speaks at the Yale Law School and the Information Society Project at Yale about Intellectual Property and the future of copyright law."

  4. Ben,

    This is my course, and I am sure that it is a Yale College course and not a Yale Law School course. Adi is one of my students.

    I will get in touch with Open Yale Courses to have them change the description.




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