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YouTube wins its copyright case with Viacom.

YouTube wins its copyright case with Viacom. (photo)

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When two corporations engage in legal battle, like oversized Transformers locked in mortal combat, it can be difficult to know who to root for. In the case of Viacom vs. YouTube, however, the moral advantage lay (just barely) with the Google-owned video giant, which had been sued by Viacom for $1 billion in copyright infringement (55% of what Google paid for YouTube to begin with, no less).

Viacom insisted YouTube had an obligation to immediately remove all copyrighted clips from its website; YouTube said they only had an obligation to pull videos identified by their copyright holders. The judge sided with YouTube; since they pulled all videos as soon as they were identified, they’re off the hook.

Here’s why this is good news. First, this does seem like some kind of karmic lesson. For a long time Viacom’s been secretly uploading clips through 18 different marketing agencies, often deliberately making the videos look messy to convey the impression of piracy:

Viacom’s efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.

Corporations can rarely get everyone on the same page, of course, but that’s going a little far. Either way, it wasn’t a factor in the judge’s summary decision in favor of YouTube — it was merely that their responsibility ended in removing the offending videos when identified. As anyone who’s ever tried to find, say, vintage MTV clips on YouTube knows, Viacom has been more vigilant than most in obsessively monitoring what’s on the website.

(First prize for YouTube watchfulness has to go to Universal, whose DVDs must have some killer identifying technology in them — most surviving clips are of people filming movies off their TVs. Surprisingly indifferent is Disney, who appear to have no problem with many of their movies being uploaded in full.)

06252010_beavis.jpgInternet pirates can be an outspoken/obnoxious group, full of rhetoric about freedom of speech, creativity and why prices are too high and their backs are against the wall — a difficult position to take when you’ve got a hard drive full of movies and a high-speed connection to match, but never mind.

YouTube clips, though, are the least of a corporation’s problems. If you want to watch a major corporate film from the last fifteen years or so, you probably don’t even need to torrent. Just run a keyword search, and pretty soon you’re streaming a low-grade copy of a film hosted — most likely — by a website based in Japan or China or by a service like MegaVideo, where users obsessively re-up movies as soon as they’re pulled.

Compared to that, YouTube isn’t that big of a factor. The reality is that this corporate whack-a-mole mentality is misdirected. Don’t worry about clips — most people are so intent on hunting down their favorite moments rather than watching a whole film that you might as well run with it. The battle to protect material will be fought film by film until (hopefully) a legal solution is found that people will actually pay for. It’ll be a case of pulling the movies one at a time, just as it is now.

I do wish, in any case, Viacom would knock it off a bit, if only because of weird situations like the “Beavis and Butt-Head” music videos — too expensive to license again for the DVDs, too good to be confined to VHS bootleg purgatory. Four months ago, a cache of B&B videos not available on DVD suddenly popped up on YouTube, and now I’m suddenly wondering if they’re one of the group of videos uploaded surreptitiously by someone at Viacom. Really, I’ll take any excuse to post this:

[Photos: “Anatomy of a Murder,” Columbia, 1959; “Beavis and Butt-Head,” MTV, 1993-97]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.