Viacom v. YouTube: Uncertainty, Investment And Innovation

A lot has been said about Viacom's billion dollar lawsuit against YouTube and Google. In his editorial in last Sunday's New York Times, Larry Lessig pointed out the chaos the Supreme Court has invited through its new-found fondness for the common law of copyright.

One victim of this chaos may be investment and innovation. If companies cannot rely predictably on clear statutory protections like those the DMCA provides for online service providers who create open platforms for people to share content, then many innovators and investors may simply steer clear of this business in favor of one that offers more security and predictability.

I am not particularly concerned about the impact of this case on Viacom's pocketbook or Google's. But I am very concerned about what this battle of behemoths will mean for technology we have not even thought of yet. If technology with a multitude of lawful and fantastically beneficial uses suffers a billion dollar penalty because some use it to violate copyright laws, then it is technology, innovation -- and ultimately all of us -- that will suffer most.

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