Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


When I was producing “Fight Back” on NBC back in the 90s, we posed this question to our audience, “What is the difference between one million dollars and one billion dollars?” Our answer: One MILLION DOLLARS is a stack of one hundred dollar bills THREE FEET HIGH. One BILLION DOLLARS is a stack of one hundred dollars bills AS HIGH AS THREE EMPIRE STATE BUILDINGS stacked on top of one another.

Think about that while you peruse this legal looking document.

Viacom International Inc. (King Kong) is suing YouTube and Google (Godzilla) for one BILLION dollars. I don’t know about you, but this sure got my attention.

Now why would the nice guys at Viacom Inc. sue those other nice guys at YouTube and Google? According to what is printed in the paper (and we all believe what is printed in the paper) Viacom has discovered a few of their copyrighted TV shows playing on YouTube without their paying the required license fees. Well, maybe more than just a few; more like 160,000? Oh-Oh!

I have to say right here that I am sympathetic to Viacom’s BILLION dollar position.

The same kind of stuff is happening to the people who make records. Have you noticed how many neighborhood and chain record stores have gone out of business lately? Their downfall began when people started downloading songs free from the Internet. Why buy an album when you can listen to it freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee? If this phenomenon continued, it wouldn’t be long before there would be nothing to listen to, free or not. Why write songs? Why record songs? We all know it is fun to write music and sing and play in a band, but a person has to make a living.

Viacom’s BILLION dollar gorilla might just wake everyone up before all this litigation gets completely out of hand (a TRILLION dollars is a stack of hundred dollar bills as tall as THREE THOUSAND EMPIRE STATE BUILDINGS!). Hopefully someone will stop and listen to the wise words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

The big movie, TV and music corporations should step back and face the fact that we have entered a new media era for the distribution of entertainment. And, the Internet has to stop playing unlicensed copyrighted material. There should be some kind of compromise reached between the supplier and the provider of Internet programming. My hope is that the Viacom/YouTube/Google BILLION dollar threat might be the catalyst to helping bring everyone together.

One of the many complaints music fans had against the record company conglomerates was that too many times the buyer had to fork out over 20-bucks for an entire album just to get the one song they really wanted. The record companies failed miserably in their attempts to address these complaints and the Internet was there to take over.

Apple, the one totally awesome company that rose to the challenge, opened their iTunes store offering downloaded single songs for 99-cents each. They then developed iPod for fans to program their own album compilations. The fans got their favorite songs; the recording artists and composers got paid. Compromise. Everybody wins.

I would hope that Viacom (King Kong) and YouTube/Google (Godzilla) reach a similar solution. One where a kid from Toledo could make a funny face and lip-sync Christina Aquilera doing a James Brown song on YouTube and the companies that distribute monies to the record company that recorded the song would get a reasonable percentage fee from YouTube’s advertising revenue. This is fantastic promotion for the record company, satisfaction for the publishers, lots of advertising for YouTube, and a lot of fun for the viewers watching some kid making a fool of himself in front of millions of people (BILLIONS actually).

That’s what I call entertainment.

That’s what I call getting along.

Stay tuned.


Blogger Mike Barer said...

Your video with Marvin Gaye got pulled. That is unfortunate, but glad I could enjoy it.

8:58 AM


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