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Last sync:2023-01-27 15:15
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Coulton gave spike's predessor permission to upload the video. (See extensive annotations.) However, viacom OWES ME sixty cents, because, hilariously, they pirated THIS VIDEO. Ask Viacom where my sixty cents is:

Jonathan Coulton's Flickr video:

Where Is Jonathan Coulton's 37 dollars?

In which John Green examines the complicated relationship between Viacom and piracy: Viacom has filed a lawsuit against YouTube seeking more than a billion dollars in damages for the copyright infringement that was rife in the early days of YouTube. But John proves that, which is owned by Viacom, has been placing ads against content that doesn't belong to them for years, including Jonathan Coulton's brilliant music video "Flickr."

This video includes a snippet of "Flickr," which is--like this video--released under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike Creative Commons license. All of which is to say: Viacom, if you steal my video like you stole Coulton's, I will sue you.


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A Bunny
( - -)
((') (')
Good morning, Hank; it's Monday.

So this is Jonathan Coulton. He's a singer, songwriter, family man, all-around nice guy — he bought me a beer once — but for our purposes today, he is a small media company. And this is Viacom, also a media company, somewhat larger.

Okay, and now this is a snippet from a Jonathan Coulton video called "Flickr." [Coulton singing] ... A tiny baby smiles and waves "Hello." In the cold, grey light of dawn, an eagle flies. And the men are happy, wearing matching ties.

A pair of poodles; broken finger will not bend. Soup with noodles; female Klingon's drunk boyfriend. Sexy lady; this party's better than it seems.

Warren Beatty; to sleeping giant panda: pleasant dreams. [instrumentals continue in background] [John] Right, so basically Jonathan Coulton found a bunch of images on Flickr that had a Creative Commons license, and then he turned them into a nonsense, crazy, funny song, which he then released under a Creative Commons license saying, "You can share this, you can remix it; all you have to do is attribute it to me and not make money off of it," which is why you don't see an ad next to my head today, Hank. But more on that in a second. So, Hank, as you explained in your excellent video on Friday, Viacom is suing YouTube for a billion dollars, because One: Viacom believes that YouTube only became popular by using pirated content and that, therefore, Viacom is owed a portion of YouTube's, like, overall value.

By which measure, YouTube does owe Viacom some money, but not nearly as much money as it owes LonelyGirl15 and that "Evolution of a Dance" guy. Also, Two: YouTube made advertising money off content owned by Viacom. Now Hank, everybody agrees that YouTube ought to pay Viacom that ad money, but the amount is in dispute.

YouTube thinks that it should have to pay what online video advertising is worth, whereas Viacom thinks that YouTube should pay what online video advertising would be worth if we lived in a land of money trees and candy fountains. Right, so, but anyway, Hank, in your video on Friday, you mentioned that Viacom owns its own video-sharing website, That led me to do some digging.

Hank, you can probably see where this is going. When you go to Viacom's website,, and you search for Jonathan Coulton, you can watch Jonathan Coulton's "Flickr" video, only before you watch it, you have to watch an advertisement for a cell phone. And then while you're watching it, you get to look at advertisements for Mountain Dew and American Express and Guitar Hero.

In short, Viacom is doing to Jonathan Coulton in 2010 what YouTube was doing to Viacom in 2006. Now, Hank, when this is pointed out to Viacom, they may take down the video, but you can't un-make money you already made. That video has been viewed more than 18,000 times on

Now, if we use the same insane mathematical formula that Viacom used to calculate how much YouTube should owe them, Viacom owes Jonathan Coulton $13,823. But, it may be that, in this particular instance, Viacom doesn't wanna use crazy math, they wanna use real math, in which case, they owe Jonathan Coulton $37. So, Hank, here's my question for Viacom: "Where is Jonathan Coulton's $37?" Hank, I sent an email to Viacom asking that very question; if you or any nerdfighters want to do the same, there's a link in my pants.

Ah, Hank, we all know Viacom hates piracy, so I'm sure they'll pay Jonathan Coulton his $37, unless, of course, they think video views are really worth what they say they think they're worth, in which case, I'm sure they'll pay him his $13,823. I mean, the only other possibility would be that Viacom thinks the definition of piracy is stealing from someone who has a lawyer... and that doesn't seem like the Viacom I know and love, Hank. Hank, I'll see you on Wednesday.