Unlike Virgil Starkwell, the main character of Woody Allen's flick "Take the Money and Run", I think some entrepreneurs got away with a lot.

Namely, YouTube's founders. According to Business Week (see p.2):

YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen received more than $300 million each in Google stock when their company was acquired.

Nifty. Isn't it?

At that time Google execs decided to go with it, sort of ignored the Napster precedent over copyright laws by putting aside a $200m provision and everybody celebrated.

Fast forward to this week: Viacom announce it would sue YouTube for $1.65bn, and they sound quite pissed judging by this jem in the FT:

Philippe Dauman, Viacom’s chief executive, expressed frustration that Google had not installed filtering technology to enable content companies more easily to determine when their material had been posted on YouTube. “Quite honestly, in my 20 to 25 years in this business, I’ve never encountered a major company which has behaved in such a wilful way for so long,” Mr Dauman said.

(well this is Hollywood after all so they are mainly acting like they are pissed to position themselves for a better settlement, and they like to show off, etc.). :)

So, will the big media siphon the tube? As stated by the FT today, commenting on the legal blur over online content sharing:

That would be a shame: digital behemoths can afford to face each other down, whether it is Microsoft facing down Google over its book digitisation project or Viacom v YouTube. But the YouTubes of the future cannot exist in such a tenuous legal environment. They need more clarity - or the next new new thing may never be born.

Meanwhile, Chad and Steve can enjoy a job well done... and to be fair, YouTube is such a nice service that a fraction of these $300m is well deserved... hmm, I wonder whether I can catch some Woody Allen on there. :)