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It only took four years for Viacom to retract their copyright claim to my YouTube video

on June 13, 2010

After four years, some help by a VP in Viacom’s corporate communications, and some recent pestering, but Viacom finally retracted a copyright claim to a video I posted on YouTube four years ago.

Ten years ago I produced a piece for ZDTV (later to become TechTV) that featured “The Daily Show.” It was a news piece for ZDTV’s show “Internet Tonight” and the piece was about how we were starting to see comedy being distributed online similar to the way news is. At the time, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” was just starting to incorporate web humor with its TV program. I went to the studios in NYC and spoke with correspondent Mo Rocca, a writer for the show (and good friend) Jim Earl, and the web producer Debra Bard. Here’s the piece.

What happened and why did it take four years for Viacom to retract its copyright claim?

  1. Four years ago I posted a video on YouTube of the news segment I produced ten years ago for ZDTV that featured “The Daily Show.”
  2. I received a message from YouTube that Viacom claimed I was posting their copy written material and they were removing it. YouTube warned me that if I tried to repost the content that it would result in the suspension of my YouTube account. At the time, it appeared Viacom just saw “The Daily Show” in the title and immediately assumed that they owned it, and therefore had the right to have it removed from YouTube.
  3. I sent a message right back to YouTube saying that they were misunderstood. My piece wasn’t owned by Viacom and they had no rights to it. It was a piece that I had produced for a network not owned by Viacom.
  4. I never received a response. YouTube I’m sure was flooded with people complaining that their videos were unjustly being removed. I assumed they just ignored my plea for reinstatement along with others. I let it slide as I didn’t have the effort to push it, nor did I want my account to be suspended.
  5. Fast forward four years, and I see a story about Viacom pulling down another video for which they had no rights to pull down. I wrote about the story (read “Why do the ‘They still don’t get it’ stories still persist”) and relate my experience with Viacom taking down my ZDTV video.
  6. Three days after posting that article I received an email from a communications VP at Viacom who apologized for my video being pulled and said he would put in a request to YouTube to have it reinstated. He also asserted that they don’t just pull content because it has a Viacom property’s name on it (e.g. “The Daily Show”). I argued had they read my description of the video or watched it they would have known that it wasn’t theirs. He said it was one of their few mistakes as they pull down hundreds of thousands of truly infringing content and a few do slip through the cracks. Mine was obviously one of them. But I did mention that I went through the official channels to get reinstated and was ignored. We exchanged many emails and the Viacom rep was very cool with me. Read more about this exchange.
  7. Three weeks passed and my “Daily Show” ZDTV segment video still wasn’t reinstated on YouTube. I pestered the Viacom communications VP one more time.
  8. Two days later I received a note from YouTube that Viacom has retracted its copyright claim to my video.

This incident and many other incidents have made me realize that traditional customer service is broken, and until businesses can get their customer service up to speed with social communications, complaining publicly is the best way to get customer service.

Creative Commons photo attribution to elkit.

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