Why Does Google Video Have DRM? Ask Viacom

By Steve Bryant  |  Posted 2006-08-13 Print this article Print

When Google's video player debuted earlier this year, a lot of people were very upset and confused that the software incorporated digital rights management.

Head Geek and primo sci-fi author Cory Doctorow was particularly taken aback, wondering why Hollywood was suddenly more important than users. And Techdirt's Mike Masnick said Google probably implemented DRM to get content companies (like CBS and the NBA) to take part, trying to control online video stores like Apple controls music.

But Google's video store was never going to compete against the YouTubes of video sharing (not even if it makes the video link part of the home page, or lets you upload porn).

No, with the Viacom deal announced, it looks like the real business plan behind the video store was syndicating content across multiple properties. Google execs have always known video adverts were coming. And with its own DRM, Google is trying to exert control on the video advertising and syndication market. As more and more advertisers sign up to do video with Google, Google's DRM will only become more and more prevalent.

The Google/Viacom partnership isn't just about commercials and shows syndicated to blogs. Viacom will also be using Google to promote and make available for download shows like Beavis and Butthead, Jackass, Punked and WonderShowzen. Viacom would never have done this without DRM. Neither will any other content company. The smart folks at Google probably predicted that stipulation last year.

An obvious argument? In hindsight, maybe so. But the unfortunate thing is that by incorporating DRM, Google was just following its own advice: Don't bet against the Internet. According to Google, the future of the Internet has a lot of advertisers who want DRM.

So I guess it's like CEO Eric Schmidt said at SES last week: As the company grows, "Google has to be more careful that it isn't violating people's copyrights."

And by people, I mean Viacom.

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