Google must be wondering what it has gotten itself into. YouTube is in trouble again after receiving a subpoena from Fox for posting episodes of the show 24.
Fox has a number of shows that are very popular with viewers. American Idol is obviously the biggest, but the Simpsons, House and 24 certainly carry their own weight. One of the big ratings winners for any television channel, including Fox, is the first new show of the season. Given this fact, you can imagine how unhappy Fox was to learn that the first episode of 24 this season was posted on YouTube before the premier was shown!
To say that Fox executives must be unhappy is a slight understatement. Talk about stealing the winds out of the channel’s sails! One of the biggest nights for the show was pre-empted! Well, Fox isn’t taking the situation laying down.
On January 18th, Fox petitioned a California court one the matter. The court issued a subpoena to YouTube to find out who the posting part is. The subpoena is based on a claim of a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. At this time, neither YouTube nor Google has indicated what steps they will take in response.
At this point, it is unclear whether Fox will actually sue YouTube for allowing the posting. Traditionally, YouTube has reacted to such complaints by removing the offending content. In this case, however, the horse is already out of the barn. The posting arguably spoiled the premier of the show, a big money maker for Fox.
Further confusing the situation is the presence of Google. Google has a history of fighting such subpoenas. It will be interesting to see if it imposes this theory on YouTube. Doing so would seem dubious since it would probably result in Fox bring a claim.
Ultimately, this situation simply portends further problems down the line for YouTube and Google. As these postings happen more and more, one can expect the artists and entertainment companies to eventually react as they did with the file sharing music situation. When will it happen? Who knows, but it should shake up the copyright field in a big way.