Although neither company has confirmed any discussions or negotiations, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reported today that Internet giant Google is in discussions to purchase online video portal YouTube for a price tag in the $1.6 billion range. According to the WSJ, the discussions are at a “sensitive stage” and could well amount to nothing; earlier speculation regarding a Google acquisition of YouTube were written off by industry analysts as unwarranted speculation.
If Google were to acquire YouTube, the company would presumably face significant hurdles from copyright holders whose content is routinely illegally published via YouTube without consent. Although YouTube has yet to face significant legal challenges regarding the illegal material on its service, that’s largely because the company doesn’t currently have the resources to make massive infringement lawsuits worth the time and trouble of major publishers. That would change with an acquisition, and pockets don’t get much deeper than Google’s. It’s a safe bet that if Google were to acquire YouTube and leave its existing service running without changes, the buyout would bring copyright infringement lawsuits on the existing service faster than wasps to fried chicken.
If an acquisition were to occur, it would also call into question the fate of Google’s own Google Video service, which currently offers authorized television and other content for sale, as well as user-generated video. However, Google Video has never captured the attention of the larger Internet community in the way YouTube has in the last year; perhaps YouTube would be rebranded as Google Video 2.0.