But it didn’t last. Civilization eventually tamed the land. Churches and schools, preachers and teachers all had a hand in wringing the wildness out of the West. Maybe the West wasn’t as much fun, but that’s how the West was won.

Kind of like the Internet.

It wasn’t that long ago when the Internet represented a wild frontier. A new and vast land where success often went hand-in-hand with being the most adventurous. Where the first rule of thumb was that there weren’t any rules, and society was reinvented on a daily basis. A world where everyone was a publisher and text was the great equalizer.

Of course, the Internet’s early days of freedom were as numbered as the Wild West days of yesteryear. As corporations saw gold in them thar data packets, the Net changed from being a land of adventure and lawlessness and morphed into a world safe for business and families. In other words, the Internet eventually became civilized.

Take YouTube, for example.

In less than two years the Web site featuring user-contributed video clips grew to be one of the most popular places on the Net. Since its debut in early 2005, YouTube quickly became the go to place on the Net for everything from last night’s Letterman monologue to today’s hottest new music video. Sure, there were copyright violations aplenty, but how could content owners keep up with all the videos users were uploading to the site?

But then civilization came to YouTube in the form of Google. Known for changing the way people search the Internet, Google’s new stewardship indicated that YouTube might become more copyright friendly. Sure enough, on the day Google announced its acquisition of YouTube, the company also announced alliances with major content owners, thus ensuring that YouTubers would have to pay the piper – such as having to watch a commercial or click on an ad before watching Dave recite the previous evening’s Top 10.

And now there’s another sign that YouTube has lost its frontier edge. Viacom has requested that the site remove videos belonging to the media behemoth, including clips from “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”

No one knows just how many Viacom-owned clips are on YouTube, but Reuters reports that, as of October 30th, there were thousands of Viacom vids still to be found.

When Google acquired YouTube, there were plenty of predictions that the video site would have to do more to comply with copyright holders. Sure, Viacom could have complained to the pre-Google YouTube, but even with the best of intentions, the fledgling company could hardly remove all those videos within a timely manner. Google acquiring YouTube is like the new sheriff riding into town, collecting all the guns and closing down the saloon as civilization once again rears its no-nonsense head.

But YouTube isn’t the only one getting a taste of civilization. Just as popular is MySpace, the social-networking site where anybody who is anybody maintains a presence. As well as nobodies who are, well, nobodies.

The premise of MySpace is simple enough. Establish your own Web site or “space” and then encourage other MySpace residents to link to your page. In fact, the MySpace universe is kind of a microcosm of the World Wide Web, where people chat, flirt and quarrel all within the confines of MySpace.com.

But the corporate world was keeping an eye on the MySpace world. And no wonder. With its millions of users, MySpace quickly became a vast holding of young consumers, the kind of demographic sought by major corporations. So it was no surprise when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. scooped up MySpace for $580 million in July 2005.

But, like YouTube, MySpace had gained a reputation for having a Wild West look and feel. With all those users posting their favorite songs and videos, any type of copyright enforcement seemed daunting at best. But with News Corp. paying the bills, suddenly the impossible started to look possible.

Enter Gracenote, which just licensed its audio fingerprinting technology to MySpace. To most people, Gracenote is the mammoth online database that identifies music CDs. That track and title info that appears on your screen after you insert a compact disc in your computer? That information comes from Gracenote.

But Gracenote has more going for it than telling you the name of the first track on Dark Side Of The Moon. MySpace plans to use Gracenote’s MusicId technology and Global Media Database to review all music recordings posted on MySpace. If a recording is identified as a copyrighted work, MySpace will prevent anyone from accessing it.

Of course, it had to happen. Like the Wild West, sites like YouTube and MySpace couldn’t keep their wild and wooly ways forever. Copyright justice has come to these massively popular Web communities. The lay of the land is now the way of the law. There’s a new sheriff in town and he doesn’t take kindly to copyright rustlers.

But at least he’s not holding any necktie parties.