1.6 billion dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to. Time was, you could buy yourself a decent-sized banana republic for that kind of cash. Or your very own drug cartel. Or maybe just a fixed presidential election or two.
These days, that’s what it costs to snatch up a popular little website that hosts a bunch of short video clips. Google, the not particularly profitable search engine, has purchased YouTube, the not particularly profitable web site, for an amount of money they might be able to collectively earn back if the world wide web remains alive, well, and utterly unchanged for the next 200 years. And some people still wonder why the tech bubble burst.
The problem I have with Google’s impulse purchase is that the sole asset of YouTube is quick, easy access to all sorts of clips that are mostly copyrighted material. And the giant corporate entities that own these copyrights are fiercely protective of their assets because, unlike Google and YouTube, they know how to make money. YouTube has said that, in future, they’ll be happy to take down any copyrighted clips from movies, TV shows, etc. if the owners simply request it. Expect an avalanche of cease-and-desist letters from a jack-booted army of lawyers to be delivered to the Google head office via a caravan of forklifts any day now. It shouldn’t be too long before every video you might have ever wanted to seek out on YouTube will be pulled down to avoid the greatest shitstorm of infringement lawsuits since the sharks played seek-and-destroy with Napster.
For me, personally, that will suck because it will shut off the only outlet I have to see all those cartoons I wrote last year. Okay yes, I’ve been watching them in Spanish, but it’s possible I wrote the screenplays in Spanish in the first place. I really don’t remember, it’s been awhile.
By the time the lawyers have picked YouTube clean, the only clips left will be all that homemade dreck the users upload. And really, there’s a limit to how many lip synchings, vomitings, and epic two part zit squeezings I need to see. Sure, the world’s largest online collection of self-humiliation video footage is a treasure to be held near and dear by all of humanity, but I don’t think I’d cough up twenty bucks for it, never mind 1.6 billion.