In early Internet days, circa 1996, I had a memorable phone conversation with a webmaster who had put up a site that violated our client’s trademark. The webmaster told me, gently, as if speaking the obvious to a child, that “You don’t understand man. You’re talkin’ about law. This is the internet. The law doesn’t apply to the internet”. Of course he was wrong. We sent a cease and desist order and they ceased and desisted. Now, the saga of RedLasso once again shows that law does indeed apply to the internet.
RedLasso was a video search engine in the business of recording TV shows and indexing the clips so that users could find and embed them on other websites, principally blogging sites. Launched in November 2007, RedLasso says it received 24 million unique visits in April 2008. This service was being offered without the permission of the rights holders. RedLasso suspended access to its video search-and-clipping site two days after NBC Universal and Fox filed a copyright suit against them.
“We are very disappointed in the actions of select networks,” RedLasso said in a statement. “We believe we have always acted within the law and have been respectful of the networks’ rights. Unfortunately, they have forced our hand and are denying the blogging community access to the Redlasso platform that beneficially tracks the usage of newsworthy clips across the Web,” said Ken Hayward, CEO of Redlasso.
RedLasso had long suggested that it was in talks to obtain licenses for the disputed content. In May, NBC Universal denied that it had any affiliation with RedLasso when the entertainment company sent a letter accusing RedLasso of “building a business based on the unauthorized syndication of [the content owners' shows].” RedLasso responded at the time by declaring that the company would “continue to make its site available for use by bloggers providing social commentary on newsworthy events as it continues to work towards cooperative, mutually beneficial arrangements with those and other content providers.” Simultaneously, RedLasso announced the appointment of former CBS chief Michael Jordan as an adviser.
The NBC/Fox lawsuit stated that, despite the May cease and desist letters, that “nevertheless, RedLasso has made, and continues to make, unauthorized copies of the networks’ copyrighted programming and content around the clock every day.”
In an emailed statement, RedLasso said it “has no alternative but to suspend blogger access to its video search and clipping beta site for the immediate future. The company will continue to operate and provide services to its business and Radio To Web clients such as Greater Media and XM Satellite Radio.”
Clearly the networks are not going to allow upstarts like RedLasso to remarket their content when they have millions invested themselves in services like Hulu. It is clear, once again, that the law does apply to the internet.
Bob Heyman is the Chief Search Officer at Mediasmith in San Francisco, and coined the terms “Audience Development” for building traffic to websites and “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO). The Video Search column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.