A year ago I was listening to the podcast of an interview conducted by Denise Howell with a trio of IP lawyers, one of whom worked at Google. Denise, who’d experienced a mid-career adjustment, was then working at one of the podcast channels owned by Leo LaPorte, known as TWIT (‘This Week In The … ‘), as the host of ‘This Week in Law’ or TWIL.
The Google lawyer was being tight lipped about what her employer would do in the event that the predicted deluge of lawsuits against YouTube actually materialized or set off a chain reaction among production companies, movie studios, and other owners of so-called content. What I remember the most about the interview is that the Google lawyer seemed completely nonplussed by the possibility of wave after wave of lawsuits. She didn’t seem to bat an eyelash. Was it just good self control on her part? Did Google think it was above the law? Had absolute power corrupted absolutely? No, she seemed to know something that the other guests didn’t, but wasn’t giving up her secret.
“It looked like the Redmond crew were finally going to get their comeuppance. Instead Microsoft outlasted the plaintiffs, their lawyers, the legal system itself. Now we recognize that antitrust laws and free markets exist ante-Microsoft (AM) and post-Microsoft (PM). See, Microsoft fought the law and … they won.”
Now a year later, it all makes sense. So its no surprise that Viacom is (finally) suing YouTube for multiple copyright violations as stated in this article. Is Google worried? Far from it: they’ve been spoiling for this fight for over 2 years. How do I know? 90’s mavens will remember the antitrust landscape before and after AOL and Netscape tried to take down Microsoft. Sure it looked like Bill and the Redmond crew were finally going to get their comeuppance, finally get what was coming to them … but that wasn’t what happened. What happened in fact was Microsoft kept bouncing back and appealing and pretty soon had outlasted not only the plaintiffs and their lawyers but the legal system itself. So now we recognize antitrust markets ante-Microsoft (AM) and post-Microsoft (PM).
All that being said, what can we expect this time around as Hollywood comes knocking on the door of Silicon Valley? LPM says watch history repeat itself as YouTube literally reshapes the legal landscape, one case at a time. And always remember, it’s not the value of an idea that sets it apart but the quality of the legal team behind it.