YouTube and Copyrights

September 18, 2006

YouTube: Everyone’s heard of them, a big web success in terms of traffic, while others wonder how long it will last, basing their predictions of demise on the outrageous bandwith fees to host all those videos and the irritating fact that tons of content on YouTube is copyrighted material. Mark Cuban for one thinks it’s all downhill from here. Many pundits are hoping for some white horse in the form of Fox to buy YouTube and take on all the potential problems themselves.

So it’s interesting that Warner Bros. just announced that they’ve come up with a plan that will allow user-created content using their copyrighted material to continue on, so long as they get something in the way of royalties. Warner will decide whether they think content is appropriate or should be pulled. This is an interesting compromise, although it adds in a wrinkle to the whole user-generated-content Web 2.0 open community thing in that there’s now an all-powerful editor that can nix your video project based on whatever criteria they deem worthy.

I hope the entertainment companies have come some distance since the days of Napster to realize that sometimes the benefit in terms of free advertising outweighs what piddly amount is lost in terms of royalties. At the end of the day the people awfully lipsyncing in their bedrooms do it because they love the songs. They’re not trying to make money. So it’s hard to see how they are costing the copyright holders any, since it’s basically free advertising.

The YouTube situation reminds me as half-Napster and half-MP3.com, the now defunct website where people could post songs they created themselves. Maybe YouTube could go in the latter’s direction. Hopefully companies will figure out a way to encourage fans and create something positive that’s a win-win situation for everyone. Whether or not YouTube is ultimately in that mix somewhere is anybody’s guess. Maybe YouTube could go in the direction of MP3.com (now defunct) where the emphasis was on the user created content and allow people to form more of a “tv station” identity for themselves – and as a result, take some emphasis off of copyrighted content.