Shocker: Mark Cuban Is Right, YouTube Is Doomed - InformationWeek

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7/17/2007
10:32 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Shocker: Mark Cuban Is Right, YouTube Is Doomed

It's not often you see something about Mark Cuban where you're inspired to read more, but that was the case today when I saw this just-posted IEEE Spectrum interview with the maverick Mavericks owner.

It's not often you see something about Mark Cuban where you're inspired to read more, but that was the case today when I saw this just-posted IEEE Spectrum interview with the maverick Mavericks owner.Cuban may have been born under a lucky star -- he's a billionaire because he sold broadcast.com to Yahoo in 1999 for $5 billion worth of stock. However, when it comes to TV and video, he's got a record of innovation which should make us pay attention to what he has to say.

Consider that he was way ahead of the curve when he established HDNet as the first all-HDTV cable channel in 2001.

Note also how he thumbed his nose at the Hollywood establishment with his original and smart plan to release low-budget movies simultaneously in theaters, on TV, and on DVD. His idea is to sell the DVDs in the lobby to departing patrons, who these days are well acclimated to the idea of movie reruns.

Indeed, while Cuban is best known to the public for making a sideline spectacle of himself as the publicity-hogging owner of the Dallas Mavericks -- go here and search for the "$20 towels" reference -- he's actually morphing slowly but surely into a major media mogul. Check out the Web page of his company 2929 Entertainment, which Cuban co-owns with his former broadcast.com partner Todd Wagner.

It seems obvious that Cuban's recent interest in buying the Chicago Cubs is fueled as much by his desire to secure anchor programming for HDNet and thus broaden his media empire as it is by his obvious need to kick his public profile up another notch. (Take that, Donald Trump.)

All this is by way of saying that when Cuban weighs in on video, as he does in the IEEE Spectrum interview, he's not just some CEO in a suit talking nonsense. He actually makes a lot of sense.

His beef with YouTube stems from its rampant posting of copyright-infringing material. To get away with this, YouTube relies heavily on the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The safe harbor provisions were originally intended to protect Internet service providers from being liable from any copyright infringement by their customers -- for example, users who downloaded pirated music.

Cuban's argument is that, while safe harbor makes sense for ISPs, who can't be aware of everything that's traversing their wires, it's stretching credulity to think that YouTube isn't aware of, and can't control, all the copyrighted content that's up on its site. As Cuban tells IEEE Spectrum:

"It seems to me that so much of YouTube's success and model is based on the safe harbor -- which seems really slippery."

Asked where he sees YouTube in 10 years, he says:

"They are gone. They will be rolled right into Google Video, and Google Video will have ways to evaluate the video before it's posted. . . If anything, if I'm wrong, and the safe harbor laws apply, then I'll create a business leveraging that."

OK, so Cuban may be a bit of a blowhard, and a rich one at that, but he's on the money here. Indeed, when you set aside his image and focus on his insights, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Cuban will be a media force to be reckoned with long after the wisps of Trump's comb-over have washed down the shower drain.

Read the full IEEE Spectrum interview, here.

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