Most of my industry news and articles comes to me via Twitter and a few select aggregators. I read few blogs on a regular basis. One exception to that is AVC.com, which is the blog of influential venture capitalist Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures. Between the frequency and quality of Wilson's posts and the discussion that often arises, it is a daily stop for me.
Last week, Wilson wrote a short post noting that New York Judge Louis Stanton issued his opinion on the ongoing legal battle between Google and Viacom (which was the main reason YouTube sold to Google). In short, Judge Stanton ruled in favor of YouTube, saying that it was compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This sets a precedent that sites with user-posted content that infringes on copyrights must comply with take-down requests, but do not have to proactively monitor their sites and do so unprompted. Wilson called this a "huge" victory for entrepreneurs and the Web in general.
I understand this in the context that other entrepreneurs under similar circumstances won't have to sell their companies, as YouTube did. But is this a win for the Web in the long term: creating a situation where content owners' work can be posted without their consent or compensation?
The media and entertainment business is in a massive flux as a result of the Web. Much of it is positive, but one has to be living under a rock not to have heard statements from media executives lamenting the fact that creating quality content requires resources -- and that current revenue models are not sustainable for the continuation of those models. Witness the continual paywall conversations about the New York Times and Hulu, as examples.
I think I understand what Wilson means by how this is good for the Web. With the ever increasing number of users accessing and ultimately spending more time on Web-based services, these content creators will have their work exposed to many users who otherwise wouldn't have seen them. And ultimately that will be a good thing for their business and hopefully spawn new revenue and innovation.
But what if it's not a good thing? What if it causes further complications for content creators, whose work is one of the fundamental things that make the Web enjoyable? What if this leads to the reduction in quality content available online in the future? No one would call that a victory. Time will tell.