AOL Rolls the Dice on New Video Site

AOL Rolls the Dice

Updated 4-03-2007. Edited 05-15-2007 and 5-19-2007.

The news about Google has affected the news about AOL more times than I care to recall, going back to the last in their series of partnerships (agreed to in late 2005) that somehow fell under the public radar and got broadcast as news again a few months ago.

Again AOL is making news because of Google, this time for wanting to cut into Google’s business by teaming up with NBC Universal (the same people who mistakenly gave us Randy Falco), NewsCorp’s MySpace, Microsoft, and Yahoo! to offer a competitor to YouTube that will offer free full-length movies and television shows as opposed to YouTube’s 10 minute clips. The new, jointly owned site could be up and running by the summer if all goes according to plan.

This weird turn of events came about after Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion last year. Talk of suing them for hosting copyright-protected content quickly bubbled up on the Web. Google is a tempting target for such lawsuits with deep pockets and a wide-open video-distribution model that turns a blind eye to copyright-protected video until content owners file complaints with YouTube, asking for the videos to be removed.

Google has argued that the DMCA’s fair-use clause covers the clips as legally acceptable for use without prior permission from the copyright holder, but Viacom has been a little uncomfortable sitting back and taking that. Google sat down for talks with Viacom and offered them a lot of money to to shut up, but they wanted more.

When Google refused to ante up, Viacom sued for “massive copyright infringement,” claiming over 160,000 of their videos are floating around YouTube’s site, and with that an idea for another website that would make YouTube a distant memory (they hope?) was born.

Update 04-03-2007: News of this project has been updated to reflect that AOL’s involvement in this project will be limited to a distribution partnership and supplying ads for the site.