A crackdown is a novel way to find a new business partner.
But entertainment behemoth NBC Universals recent investigation of viral video Web sites may end up doing just that.
Going after a supposed crook and then going into business together isnt unique, rather its the fabric of life online.
The Internets history is dotted with such instances. File-swapping pioneer Napster is perhaps the best known example. There are many others.
How these battles play out usually determine the extent to which the technology behind the rumpus affects consumers and enterprises.
Now comes another instance of hunted-turned-possible-partner. This time its viral video sites, were users can freely upload videos to share.
Recently one such site served as a conduit for two high-profile NBC "Saturday Night Live" skits reaching the Internet without NBCs permission.
Last Aprils introduction of high-tech titan Googles Google Video, which operates in very much the same manner, has also boosted viral videos fortunes.
But concern grows as more television and movie companies see their copyrighted material showing up on these sites, said a source familiar with the situation.
In steps NBC Universal, and its first-ever extensive investigation of viral video Web sites. Three weeks ago it began a hunt for sites with NBCs intellectual property.
But whats really resonating with NBC is just how popular the sites are. Some of their videos had been downloaded more than 5 million times.
So its not out of the question that NBC could approach an alleged offender and turn it into a business partner. The business logic applied in this scenario is that the biggest offender is the best possible partner.
"We recognize theres a demand," said NBC Universal spokesperson Julie Summersgill, although she noted its company policy not to comment on rumors of potential partnerships.
In that light, the only real candidate among those NBC targeted recently is YouTube, the year-old video sharing community that has millions of users, and most recently signed a distribution deal with MTV.
Nearly all the videos NBC uncovered were uploaded to YouTube, according to Summersgill.
A spokesperson for YouTube didnt immediately comment for this story.
During a previous interview, a YouTube spokesperson said the company does nothing wrong, and in proactively going after possible copyright infringers is going beyond what most other video sites do, and what the law requires.
NBCs initial goal three weeks ago was definitely more of the search-and-destroy variety. And its succeeded.
It has uncovered more than 3,000 videos, including entire episodes of the "Will and Grace" TV show, the feature-length film "Brokeback Mountain" and hours of NBCs coverage of the recent Winter Olympics.
NBC only identified YouTube, and wouldnt name any other sites contacted.
Each of the sites subsequently removed the videos NBC found. NBC also contacted peer-to-peer communities, none it named, where its content was also being traded.
"We were struck by how quickly people acted," Summersgill said.