However, copyright owners are becoming increasingly vocal in their disapproval of YouTube's policy, demanding that it do a better job of policing content that gets posted to the site.
Last year music companies demanded that YouTube clean up its act with anti-piracy software if its wanted to do business with them. YouTube promised to comply and reached agreements with companies such as Warner Bros and Universal Music Group to have anti-piracy software in place by the end of 2006 - a deadline it failed to meet.
Around the same time, The Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) and 22 other Japanese video producers demanded that YouTube to take a proactive rather than a reactive stance against copyright violations.
The current action by Fox, however, ups the ante by putting the onus on YouTube to join the battle against its own illegal posters. If successful, which legal opinion so far appears to believe it will be, the Fox lawsuit could spell the beginning of the end of the anarchic nature of YouTube video posting, which has enabled users all over the world to see entire seasons of TV programs before they go to air.
As many programs get aired in the US before their release in other countries, quite often entire seasons of popular programs such as Lost and Heroes are posted on YouTube, enabling viewers outside the US to see them before they hit their local TV networks.
The question that the lawsuit does not address, however, is how did ECOtotal get hold of the episodes prior to their release in the US. The unknown answer raises the possibility that TV studios may have to do some internal policing of their own to prevent further leaks of their content.