Fact is, Viacom isn't afraid of YouTube cutting into TV viewers or DVD sales. They're afraid of YouTube cutting into the future of broadcast and cable television: Internet video. You know -- the market that didn't exist until it was practically invented by this little Silicon Valley startup called YouTube?
This isn't about copyright, it's about competition. Like most everything on earth, it all comes down to money. Not just the billion Viacom is suing for -- the tens of billions that will come later, when we all have IP-driven TVs that get their content off the Web. That's why Viacom decided to set Jon Stewart free on the Web. They weren't doing it to be cuddly. They want to kill off the amateurs so they have the field to themselves.
Viacom's big problem? They're fighting the same battle the record companies have been fighting. Every time the RIAA took down another file-sharing network, three more sprang up to take its place. Take down YouTube, and the videos will just show up somewhere else -- or, more likely, a dozen other places.
Even if Viacom wins this battle, they'll lose the war. The question is, what will we lose in the meantime?