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11/17/2009
07:47 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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YouTube Direct Forgets Payments

YouTube on Tuesday introduced YouTube Direct, a Web platform designed to help media organizations solicit, screen and rebroadcast video clips submitted by citizen journalists.

YouTube on Tuesday introduced YouTube Direct, a Web platform designed to help media organizations solicit, screen and rebroadcast video clips submitted by citizen journalists."Citizen," in Google-speak, means "unpaid."

Video makers can now sport the honorific "citizen," just like writers and musicians, other professions that are often expected to work for nothing.

It's "user-generated content," after all. These "citizens" are like little dynamos, just generating and generating. They're the cold fusion of the Internet, providing free energy and labor, in violation of the laws of physics.

Now I understand and appreciate the democratizing benefits of the Internet, but I have to wonder where this ends. Citizen doctors, who provide free medical advice or radiological consulting from India and China? Flash mobs mobilized to sweep undesirables from the neighborhood? Citizen contestants, who submit 3D models or other digital work in the hope of "winning"?

Or will the only Internet-safe jobs in the future be accredited professions like doctors, lawyers, and accountants, the ones that maintain legal barriers to competition?

There will always be people willing to do for free what others seek to do for pay, but at some point, citizen journalists become exploited journalists.

Google's YouTube API Terms of Use and site Terms of Use prohibit media organizations from monetizing clips submitted through YouTube Direct without explicit permission.

But Google and YouTube, which put so much emphasis on content sharing, should think more carefully about revenue sharing.

YouTube Direct would have been a perfect opportunity to show some respect for reporters through the inclusion of a revenue-distribution mechanism. Submit your tornado video and get paid when a million people tune in to watch the farm animals you filmed in flight.

Doing so might be taken as a sign that Google believes user-generated has value.

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