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by Mike Zazaian October 20, 2006 - 10:56am, 3 Comments

YouTube Founders Steven Chen, left, and Chad Hurley

YouTube pulled 30,000 user-uploaded videos from its site today due to complaints from a group of 23 Japanese media companies.

YouTube was contacted yesterday by the the Japan Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC), who demanded that YouTube remove a number of copyrighted video clips. YouTube gave into those demands this morning, removing 29,549 user-uploaded video files from its site, the first such mass-removal of content in its one-year history.

Tokyo-based JASRAC, a media conglomerate comprised of TV networks, movie distributors and recording studios, has also implored YouTube to set up better screening measures for the uploads of videos. While YouTube is obligated to comply with any requests to remove copyrighted material, copyright holders believe that it should be YouTube’s responsibility to ensure that such content is kept off, not their own. A spokesperson for JASRAC also said that the move was meant to send a message, showing YouTube and its users that companies are not taking these matters lightly.

Interestingly JASRAC has yet to suggest that any legal action will be taken against YouTube for facilitating copyright infringement. It’s possible that the deep pockets of Google, YouTube’s new sugar daddy, are enough to scare copyright holders away from the prospect of monetary gain over the matter. After forking out 1.65 billion for YouTube nearly two weeks ago, you can bet that Google will protect it’s latest acquisition by any means necessary. And with over $10 billion in cash, and over $100 billion in other assets and holdings, to say that it would be a daunting task for even Japanese TV Giant and JASRAC member NHK would be an understatement.

Smaller video-sharing sites have seen a slew of suits lately, including the latest instance in which Universal Music Group filed suit against YouTube-like Bolt.com and Grouper to the tune of $150,000 per instance of infringement. Those may be bank-breaking figures for the likes of Bolt.com and Grouper, but were Universal to level such a suit against YouTube Google would almost certainly make an example of them, dragging out a long and painful litigation and making the entire effort more costly for Universal than any benefit to be had. Sure it would cost Google a great deal of money, but it would be well worth the added protection to its $1.65 billion investment. Indeed, under its Google umbrella YouTube could be all but invincible. Could this be what Google’s been planning all along?

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Image courtesy of The New York Times