On NPR Now: The Viacom-Google Debate

NPR's "To the Point" program is airing right now on WYNC, NPR's public radio station in New York, and the subject is Viacom v. Google. A very lopsided argument, since there are no reps from Google, and actual producers of YouTube content.


Jordan Levin, former WB Network CEO and one of the brains behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and co-founder of a multiplatform production company called Generate. Calls Buffy an early example of multiplatform media across TV, video games and the Web. Doesn't think you can regulate or legislate technology. The model is shifting to one that is consumer-driven. It used to be that primary models generated money. Now it's the broader platform that gets you noticed, and the monetization comes down the road. Doesn't believe legislation can keep up with the velocity of technological change.

Douglas Lichtman, University of Chicago, advising Viacom in Viacom v. YouTube. Agrees with Levin on the business lesson of YouTube. But the "legal question is importantly different," he says, and casts it as, "Will the legal model support multiple business models?" The law's role is to create the possibility of different models. On Levin's point, above, that law can't keep up with tech change, he says every legal rule must have some flexibility built in. Sees two fixes, one with the courts and one with Congress, each used for different purposes.

James Boyle, Duke Law School: Agrees with Doug in the abstract. But is dubious that's what Viacom wants. Something else: A lot of what's going on isn't about consumers, it's about people experiencing culture. Regulation will be to the detriment of free expression.

James McQuivey, analyst, Forrester Research: Most of this conversation goes way over the head of the public. They just know South Park and the Daily Show aren't on YouTube anymore, but they still go to YouTube because they see the site as a big social experiment. YouTube keeps pointing to this, saying, Look, our traffic is going up. YouTube is an environment with no rules. That's what this argument with Viacom is.