Copyrights, The Record Industry and YouTube

Today’s bug squashing day here at DFE, so I’m not updating the site much. But then, I haven’t been updating the site too much, anyway.

But I saw this video, sent by friend of the site JF, which got me to thinking:

The message is fine and certainly amusing. But it’s not that which got me thinking, it was the music. This video will probably not outlast the week, since YouTube uses software that listens to the audio output of a video to discover potential violations of copyright, which this video technically does. The author is probably not making any money off the video, but YouTube is, so the use of Amy Winehouse’s material without paying her – and the record company – is illegal.

But there is no vehicle for us small time bloggers to even pay a record company for the rights in the first place. That means that a law which is entirely reasonable on it’s face is preventing the kind of free flow of information that the web is meant to produce. At least in this particular facet of creativity. And at the same time, an entirely new type of revenue stream is being blocked from the record companies. But I don’t think it needs to be this way.

Now, if a local radio station wants to play Winehouse’s music, they pay what is known in the industry as a performance royalty. Basically, for every play of copyrighted music on a commercial radio station, television station or any other commercial enterprise, the performer and the company make a few pennies. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but for an international star, a few pennies per day per radio station adds up quickly. In fact, for reasons I won’t get into, performance royalties tend to be the only money most rock stars ever actually make.

So why not put the YouTube commercial service to good use? You’ve seen the advertisements that come up on the bottom third of the screen when watching a YouTube video? What is preventing YouTube from selling those blocks off as performance royalties? If I want to use Saved By Zero in a YouTube video, I look it up in a database and apply to use it. YouTube looks up my average video views and determines whether a sufficient number of commercial plays will happen in a sufficient amount of time. If so, I’m cleared to use it.

Of course, more than one ad could be used in a given video, depending on length. There’s lots of other factors, but there’s lots of smart folks at YouTube and Google who could figure it out if they wanted to.

And of course, the record companies have to consent, which is unlikely. I’m not expecting my plan to be put into action in any event. I’m simply pointing out that there is an entirely reasonable business model for making content-rich, copyright-safe videos possible on the Internet if only the record companies could get their heads out of their asses and start living in the 21st century.


Who’s Watching the Watcher You’re, er, Watching?

I remember getting a video pulled from my account by YouTube a while back. It was a video of The Daily Show, and so copyright was admittedly a bit murky: on the one hand, rebroadcasting clips of television shows is generally copyright violation, but since it’s a kind of current events show (some people actually learn more about the news from TDS than from their network news, big surprise) and since I’m a blogger who does the pseudo-journalistic thing, an argument could be made for “fair use.”

But as YouTube has become – along with many other social video services – a standard of presenting media on the Internet, more and more content has gotten pulled by YouTube for more and more questionable rationales. Free speech covers things like fair use, parody and other uses of otherwise copyrighted material. But with thousands of videos getting posted per day, the need to regulate copyright and the need to protect free speech in a large volume, rapid fire environment are highly competitive necessities.

Enter YouTomb, the MIT student project dedicated to cataloging YouTube video removals, their owners, their viewers and what reasons the vids get pulled for:

YouTomb Keeps an Eye on YouTube’s Graveyard | The Underwire from

Jansen says the site’s opaque policies spurred the YouTomb project.”We aren’t trying to be antagonistic at all,” said Jansen. “We understand YouTube has a business to run. But at the same time, we’re not sure where it ends.”

Alongside a screenshot of each clip deemed in violation, YouTomb lets users see who posted the offending video, how many views it got before being pulled, when it was removed and by whom (for instance at the request of the user, a media company or third-party).


The Television / PC Divide

Kodak’s technology blog, A Thousand Nerds, has an interesting post about the changing nature of consumer entertainment demand and how that will affect the way content gets delivered to its audience. It may be that we finally bridge the Television / PC divide by eliminating both from the equation:

A Thousand Nerds: A Kodak blog about innovation

What does this all mean? The TV and Internet as we know it are about to undergo massive change. TV will be replaced by connected displays able to deliver a full range of multimedia output. Sitting in front of the computer clicking away will also be replaced by new ways of interacting with these connected displays as the interaction transforms from passive consumption to two-way interaction. You can also expect more changes within the industry as companies consolidate, form new strategic partnerships, and realign offerings around multimedia.

Not that PCs will go away, or televisions either. But after decades of attempts to somehow merge the two (Windows Media Center, WebTV, etc), its seemed very clear that the two do not go together. The problem is largely one of furniture, however: people sit at desks to use their PCs and lounge on couches to watch TV, neither of which providing a comfortable environment to swap roles.