After paying $1.6bn for the world's favourite video sharing site this week, Google could be facing copyright problems over some of the site's video content, as content owners take advantage of the search engine giant's deeper pockets.

Media group Time Warner has indicated that it will be pursuing its copyright claims against YouTube with its new owners, and other companies may well choose to follow suit.

Dot-com billionaire Mark Cuban has previously suggested that YouTube is a gigantic lawsuit waiting to happen. He believes Google’s acquisition will make this much more likely:

“I still think Google Lawyers will be a busy, busy bunch. I don’t think you can sue Google into oblivion, but as others have mentioned, if Google gets nailed one single time for copyright violation, there are going to be more shareholder lawsuits than Doans has pills to go with the pile on copyright suits that follow.”

Time Warner chief executive Dick Parsons said negotiations with YouTube over use of its content would continue with the site’s new owners:

“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."

The long term solution for YouTube may lie in a series of revenue-sharing deals with the larger copyright holders, such as the deals agreed with both Warner Music Group and CBS over the past month.

The worry for users of YouTube, whose participation has been central to the site’s success, is that tighter controls over copyright and increased levels of advertising content to generate revenue may detract from the site’s original appeal. 

Graham Charlton

Published 13 October, 2006 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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