Home » Digital Economy, Intellectual Property

Why Viacom and others justified in blocking Google TV

By 24 November 2010 4 Comments

Many in the blogosphere and advocacy groups are up in arms about Viacom and other television networks blocking Google from accessing their content on Google TV.  But there are many good justifications for this because content needs to be supported by commercial entities and because Google is getting a taste of its own medicine.

Many people can’t understand how a content owner could refuse Google TV free access to their content if they already give that free access directly to consumers, but I would ask them this.  Since there are plenty of free software applications on the market that permit free consumer usage but restrict free commercial usage intended to generate money, is that wrong?  Should those software makers let other companies take their free software and make money from it without sharing some of that revenue?  I think most people would agree that commercial entities shouldn’t be allowed to profit from free-to-consumer software or content without having to share some of that revenue with the makers of the content and software.

The other reason these practices are justified is because they are a balancing force between business entities.  Google is hypocritical and arrogant when they criticize others for blocking their content because they’ve done the exact same thing to other hardware makers trying to get free access to YouTube.  The other noteworthy fact is that Google deliberately threatened Viacom with the possibility of overlooking piracy of Viacom content on YouTube despite having the hardware in place to detect that piracy unless Viacom gave more favorable content licensing terms to Google.  Viacom protecting its content is the only way it can have any leverage in negotiations with Google.

Now that other companies are giving Google a taste of its own medicine, Google has no right to cry about it.  At some point in the future if and when Google TV becomes significant and Google stops threatening to overlook piracy and comes to a mutual agreement with the content owners, Google TV will be able to access all that content.  Until then, there’s no reason to take the side of either Google or the content owners and they should work it out among themselves and in the courts.

4 Comments »

  • Michael Baumli said:

    “Should those software makers let other companies take their free software and make money from it without sharing some of that revenue?”

    I feel that this depends on how the company is profiting. The only example to this I think could be providing a service or an add-on to the original software that some how benefits both entities. For instance, if a company were to provide support for something such as OpenOffice.org or created add-ins or filters that some how made OpenOffice.org a more user friendly application. Something like a Ribbon-like interface or tools to speed up the application or even bundling OOo into a suite like product like IBM does with Lotus Symphony and Lotus Notes. IBM doesn’t make money off of OOo, but does use OOo integration to make Lotus Notes a better application platform. While your point is correct, even IBM contributes back to OOo, while not as much as others, but shared revenue should definitely be appreciated.

    The Google TV matter seems very much like Karma coming back into balance.

  • George Ou (author) said:

    “I feel that this depends on how the company is profiting. The only example to this I think could be providing a service or an add-on to the original software that some how benefits both entities.”

    Right, but I think we should leave that to the interpretation of the content owner. The point is that the content owner has the right to give away their services to whomever they please or deny free access to their content whomever they please.

  • Maggie said:

    This is basically Google’s Modus Operandi. They take peoples online content for free and profit from it. They spider your website and then put it on there search engine next to ads. I’ll bet they thought they could get away with this again through Google TV.

  • Adahn said:

    “Many people can’t understand how a content owner could refuse Google TV free access to their content if they already give that free access directly to consumers, but I would ask them this. Since there are plenty of free software applications on the market that permit free consumer usage but restrict free commercial usage intended to generate money, is that wrong?”

    I don’t quite see how this analogy fits the situation. As I understand it, Google TV isn’t getting any content that isn’t already being made available to the user. It’s just a device, like any other PC. As far as I can tell, Google’s only role in this case is to essentially be a PC manufacturer that (like Apple) uses their own operating system instead of a third party OS (such as Windows). Google isn’t using Viacom’s content, Google is providing a device that makes it convenient for a consumer to use Viacom’s content.

    Should we really be letting the content providers dictate what device a consumer can use to watch content? Would Viacom be justified (in your opinion) blocking access to anyone who had a monitor bigger than 19″ attached to their PC? Should they be allowed to block their content from Dell PCs because Dell didn’t work out some “mutual agreement”, but HP and Apple did? Should we be letting content providers dictate what brand of PCs/devices consumers should be allowed to use to view the content?