What Will Become Of The YouTube Universe? - InformationWeek

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2/20/2007
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What Will Become Of The YouTube Universe?

If you've spent any time on YouTube, or on any of the other video sharing sites that are now so incredibly popular, you'll know that a large percentage of the clips available have at least some copyrighted material in them. In fact, a good percentage are completely copyrighted. Surprised? Of course not. Not unless you've been hiding in an art film theater for the past 10 years.

If you've spent any time on YouTube, or on any of the other video sharing sites that are now so incredibly popular, you'll know that a large percentage of the clips available have at least some copyrighted material in them. In fact, a good percentage are completely copyrighted. Surprised? Of course not. Not unless you've been hiding in an art film theater for the past 10 years.In fact, one of the major factors behind YouTube's success has been the easy (and free) availability of clips from various commercials, TV shows, music videos, and films. You want to see the ads that played during the Super Bowl? You want to see clips of your favorite movie set to music from one of the latest pop groups? You want to see an episode of that nifty British sci-fi show that hasn't yet made it to the U.S.? It's here, boys and girls, if you know where to look.

Until recently, YouTube fans felt reasonably secure when flouting those inconvenient (and, to many, incomprehensible) copyright laws. There was some panic when Google bought YouTube, along with predictions of a flurry of lawsuits and an immediate scouring of user content. That doesn't appear to have happened -- yet.

What has happened is that media conglomerates are starting to chafe at the perceived loss in revenue that they're experiencing as a result of YouTube's huge collection of copyrighted material -- a collection that is, no doubt, increasing even as you read this. According to a recent article, YouTube plans to "offer anti-piracy tools only to companies that have distribution deals with the top online video-sharing service." In other words, play ball with YouTube, and you can get your copyrighted materials off their servers. You don't want to enter into a friendly arrangement? Well, that's too bad.

Sounds a bit like a 1950s gangster movie, doesn't it? Well, yes and no. According to some analysts, YouTube is simply insisting that the media companies -- who aren't themselves poverty-stricken -- pay for the complex anti-piracy software that YouTube has developed. And by screaming blackmail, the media moguls may simply be using another negotiating tool in the battle to get their material where thousands of YouTube fans will see it.

And the YouTubers who are in the middle of all this? I doubt many of them care about Viacom's demands or YouTube's business deals -- except where it affects their ability to find their favorite videos, upload that really snazzy clip that all their online friends are begging to see, or use that incredible music to back up their new home videos. However, once all those business deals start really affecting their use of video-sharing services, the fur could begin to fly.

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