YouTube and copyright
YouTube is a website that allows you to upload videos for other people to watch. That's all there is to it really. Of course it has groups and tagging and comments and RSS, etc., but that's all pretty tengential to the fact that it lets you store video on their site and have thousands of people watch it, all without charge. God knows how they intend to make money in the long term - the server farm and gigabits of bandwidth must be burning though the cash and the only obvious way to make money as it stands is to run adverts on the pages with the videos.
Anyway, seeing as I don't have the bandwidth on my own server to share videos at the present time, YouTube could be a godsend for me and other bloggers who want to put video in their blogs. The really good thing about YouTube is that it allows you to embed their Flash based player in your own web pages.
BoingBoing has a story about YouTube receiving a takedown notice from NBC about the Saturday Night Live skit, Lazy Sunday. What interests me here isn't that NBC wanted their video taken off YouTube, it's the reaction to this from the editors of BoingBoing and their readers. It just happens that this particular story was posted by Xeni Jardin, but it might as well have been by notorious copyleftist Cory Doctorow. The article goes on at length about how stupid and ungrateful NBC are for sending the takedown notice (they call it a 'nastygram' presumably because the letter uses nasty legal language - that's because it's a legal document!) They argue that it's ungrateful because illicit sharing of the Lazy Sunday video was responsible for it's popularity and may have resulted in more people watching SNL. They then, frankly, whinge about how the video is available on NBC's website but only plays reliably on Windows and how NBC put the video up on iTunes but charges for it there.
While there is some argument to say that TV companies should be more tollerant towards fans sharing clips (or often entire shows) in violation of copyright, the fact is, IT'S ILLEGAL! Not that I'm against people uploading copyrighted material to YouTube - if they didn't you'd just be left with phonecam videos of teenagers doing stupid stuff. I intend to upload TV commericals that I find amusing, so I'm not getting all righteous about it, but the fact is that if a copyright owner wants you to stop distrubuting their material, it's just tough. It doesn't matter what argument you come up with about how they should allow it or how you are doing them a favour even - the decision is up to them. The last part of the BoingBoing post that I find interesting is:-
This isn't like another television network broadcasting the skit without permission. YouTube is a service through which individual fans can share stuff they're nuts about with others. NBC issuing a C&D to YouTube makes about as much sense as NBC sending attorneys to the homes of every blogger or Livejournaler user who posted a link to a torrent somewhere -- not to mention the fan-made AIM icons and web banners. Viral means the stuff has a life of its own, guys, and that's what made it a hit.
This is a lot like the arguments people made in defense of the original Napster before the RIAA got it killed off in totality. That it was music fans that were sharing the music, that Napster was just a conduit as it were. That fans sharing music was actually doing the artists a favour by getting them more exposure. Whatever you think of those pro-sharing arguments, the fact that Napster got shut down because the vast majority of material on it was copyright infringing should serve as a warning to YouTube. I'm not the only one who has noticed how much infringing material there is on the site including music promos, TV show clips and even entire soccer matches.
At the moment YouTube has it's head burried in the sand eBay-style in that they allow copyright owners to contact them and get stuff taken down, but there's no way for ordinary users to say: this is obviously copyright infringing, get it off. YouTube only takes down videos reported by users to break it's terms of service and that mostly just means porn. Somebody should really open a book on how long it'll be before YouTube starts getting hit up with some large lawsuits (and not just 'nastygrams').
I have a question. If I send a copyrighted video from my hotmail account to my friend’s hotmail account, are hotmail as responsible as youtube? or is it different? I mean, they are hosting the copyrighted material and allowing its delivery from one person to another. Saying that, I appreciate the difference in that youtube is streaming it to millions of viewers. However, legally, isn’t it the same? It’s still distribution (even if it’s only between 2 parties).
mo - 28 02 06 - 09:40
In my opinion (I’m not a lawyer obviously), in both cases you have primary responsibility for the copyright infringement. In the case of you sending a file to your friend via hotmail, hotmail wouldn’t be in any trouble – all they’re doing is following your instruction to move a file of unknown content from your account to another. It’s the same as if you burnt the file onto a CDR and posted it to your friend – the postal service wouldn’t be responsible. They and hotmail cannot reasonably check every file/package and nor to they attempt to. The law recognises this.
In the case of youtube, you are putting up a file for millions to view as you say. Not only can youtube review every video posted but also, they do exercise editorial control over what is posted. Porn gets removed pretty quickly so it should be easy for them to remove other content that shouldn’t be there. And most of the copyright infringement is easy to spot because users make no attempt to disguise it at present, due to the lax implementation of the rules.
Rich () - 28 02 06 - 16:10
On internet, since the inception of the blogs concept, what I’ve seen is… anyone can say anything about anyone else or someone else’s products or services… and it gets circulated throughout internet… There are good reviews as well as there are bad reviews about things out there… Don’t you think what has been written is the responsibility of the writer and the product’s company in question can truly challenge the writer for misleading the whole world regarding their products ? I believe blogs killed the copyrights… and they’ve killed several legal rights as well… And when laws are broken, that’s never a good thing! Why not look at thinks from everyone’s perspective!
Susan (URL) - 02 06 06 - 08:56