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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

BusinessWeek on YouTube: `Whose Video Is It, Anyway?'

BusinessWeek looks at YouTube and finds "a Pandora's box" of copyright issues. From the piece:

    While YouTube promises huge distribution, the site and its users are just starting to sort out how to apportion the power they've suddenly acquired. Some indies are becoming wary of YouTube, which doesn't share ad dollars with them, unlike rival services. "The exposure is great, but with all the copyright issues and the lack of potential ad revenues, it seems like something that we're not going to get into right now," says Orrin Zucker, co-creator of It's JerryTime, a popular animated cartoon series that is shown, for now, on the artists' own site.

    Tur's lawsuit shows the fine line that YouTube is walking as it attempts to build its business model. [Photographer Robert] Tur is suing because his videos of the [1992 Los Angeles] riot and other events were uploaded without his permission. Although lawyers agree that YouTube should be protected by copyright law as long as it responds to content owners' requests to take down their works, it entered uncharted territory when it recently began adding ads next to search results.

Interesting data point: the guys who made the popular Mentos and Diet Coke video, in Maine, earned $30,000 from Revver -- but they believe they could've made twice as much, had the video not been posted without their permission to YouTube.

YouTube backlash seems to have begun. The armchair analysts at Valleywag say YouTube is "about to die." There's controversy about the site's terms of use, and whether it purports to "own" videos uploaded there. And John Batelle says its unlikely a major entertainment or tech company will buy YouTube, given the problems over copyrighted content.


  • This sort of backlash seems very similar to the sentiment among the studios that seems to be holding back any innovations in distribution (the whole piracy is killing our business thing). It seems that because people are viewing something you created, you're entitled to a lot of cash. And not just any cash, but specifically, the most anyone is willing to pay multiplied by the number of people who watched it (even those who were only willing to watch it for free).

    I can't help but think that the studios are cultivating this sort of entitlement, and that I don't think it's particularly healthy for fostering a creative environment for filmed content. Do chefs charge every time their recipe is used? I think everyone would be happier if they stopped focusing on the maxing out how much they could earn for their creations, and focused on recouping their production costs or whatever it would take for them to keep on creating. Ironically, I know this is the stance that the studios take. (but then again, they're conveniently ignoring plenty of other sources of controversy such as spending and accounting practices, that may throw their real intentions into doubt).

    What's interesting about YouTube is that successful videos are driven less by the quality of the source, and more about the quality of the delivery mechanism (well that's not strictly true, but you get the idea). YouTube users seem to really enjoy consuming and passing on videos this way. This is exactly what they want. Content creators should recognize this about what happens on consumption side of their videos.

    Having said all that, YouTube is getting a free ride (via advertising) on a lot of content that other people worked hard on. So some sharing is definitely in order. In that case, I take back all those mean things I said about greedy content creators.

    By Blogger Kobe, at 3:44 PM  

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