Digital Directions: The Google Settlement
One definition of a media company is an organization that obtains or facilitates the creation of content for which there is an audience and monetizes the delivery of that content via advertising or content sales. Google now fully qualifies. Its content offerings consist of both software-generated indexes (not unlike data and analytic feeds to financial services) as well as editorial/creative content. Google’s revenue includes both advertising and content sales.
At present, Google’s role is more akin to a distributor than a publisher, per se, and clearly represents more of a competitive threat to distributors than to publishers. However, in the case of YouTube and Knol, Google also acts as the facilitator to the creation of original content.
The overriding objective of any shareholder-owned company is the maximization of shareholder value, which in Google’s case is primarily derived by maximizing media-based revenue streams.
The Opt-Out World
Should the settlement be completed and the terms enforced, other digital content scenarios likely will refer to the Google Book Search settlement as precedent, especially the opt-out practice.
Therefore, any type of media or information is fair game for an aggregator to copy and serve, as long as mechanisms are in place for the original creator to alert the aggregator if he does not want his content to be included in the program.
That’s how YouTube works. Anyone can upload a copyright-protected video to YouTube, a Google service, and the content will remain until the rights holder complains and the content is removed. YouTube is employing ever-effective policing software to automatically identify copyright infringement, but as a matter of policy, the onus remains with the rights holder to alert the service of the infringement. YouTube is not on the hook for enforcement. Viacom has taken issue with this practice, in protracted and ongoing litigation.