YouTube, the open-source video upload site, is as popular as ever following its buyout from Google. However, today I came across a deliciously snarky editorial about YouTube’s blatant use of copyrighted material. Is what YouTube doing really illegal? Can you REALLY get free egg rolls??
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Specifically, the author (Simon Dumenco at Advertising Age) is particularly irked at YouTube’s response to Viacom’s demands that 100,000 clips from their various media/shows/etc be taken down.
Right before Google came a-courting last fall, I described YouTube in this column as basically functioning as a massive restaurant with a big sign outside that reads “FREE HORS D’OEUVRES, ALL YOU CAN EAT” — only you don’t have your own kitchen; you just steal much of your best food from other restaurants (or, rather, the food falls off of trucks, and your patrons bring it all in, while your waiters look the other way).
YouTube responded (somewhat wounded) that Viacom missed out on a good opportunity to interact with the YouTube community.
That’s like you saying, “The biggest feeling we have right now is that the YouTube community will no longer be able to enjoy free Viacom egg rolls.”
They’re not your freaking egg rolls to serve!
You don’t even know how to make egg rolls!
The author brings up a good point but is a little overly self-righteous in my opinion. The strength of his argument is weakened by the fact that YouTube *does* make its own egg rolls: user created and uploaded material. These videos are still the top content, along with some music videos that bands such as Ok Go are happy to upload for the world to see. YouTube doesn’t just rely on copyrighted eggrolls for its exposure and clout, the real value in YouTube is its community and potential for creativity…as well as an “everyman” take on whatever strikes your fancy.
Another argument is this: can you really get in a big huff over content that was already given away for free? What I’m talking about here is broadcast or syndicated TV which is freely given to everyone and all. One could certainly argue that the content is ad supported, but the end result is still that the content itself is free. People with TiVos or DVDr’s can easily record and edit out the commercials, its not uncommon at all. Its not illegal to record TV and watch it again, or even to show it to an audience as long as you don’t profit from it (there are exceptions like sports games, etc). Cable TV, which users DO pay for, seem to have a real beef with YouTube as they rely on subscriptions more than ads. However HBO/Showtime/etc content on YouTube is rare in my experience compared to comedy shows like the Daily Show and Conan and SNL (all free). My guess is that replaying older shows actually generates viewership for the current episode which charge more for ad space anyway. So then, whats the big deal?
(Hat tip Ben)