According to every authority figure I have ever had, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. When advanced Flash video compression first came on the scene in 2005, creating new media juggernauts like YouTube and Google Video, it sent copyright holders spinning on their heads and running for their attorneys. Lawsuits were threatened, videos were pulled down quicker than Madonna’s sheer thong (I love Madge, but this is just wrong) and many predicted the demise of the powerful new sharing technology and the hugely popular sites it had so quickly spawned. That, for the record, was the wrong way to do things.
What YouTube and its peers have done is create access to a massive amount of content that many people, particularly young people with money, would never have had access to. In many cases, these young people discovering new movies, bands and TV shows will then go out and purchase CDs, DVDs, BlurRay discs and MP3s. Most record companies, movie studios and TV networks fought tooth and nail against allowing Duran Duran videos, clips from Caddyshack and 80s SNL episodes from availability on YouTube. Of course they’d rather someone had to buy the material instead of watching it for free online – but they won’t buy anything if they are completely unaware of its existence.
Compressed Flash video has very poor audio and video quality by today’s advanced HD standards. It can’t be easily downloaded, converted to other video formats or burned onto DVDs. It threatens nothing but can offer everything to savvy marketers and enlightened corporate decision makers. And it seems YouTube now offers the ability for these copyright holders to take alternate and potentially profitable measures against folks, in this case yours truly, who upload and share material that they own.
“UMG has claimed some or all audio content in your video One Thirsty Kitty. This claim was made as part of the YouTube Content Identification program.”
Apparently someone at UMG took exception recently to the fact that I used Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat? as the soundtrack to my breathtaking masterpiece, One Thirsty Kitty. This is one of the most highly viewed videos I have created and shared on the network, but their attention was more likely drawn to it because I ‘tagged’ it with the title and artist, hoping that Tom Jones fans might find and enjoy it. In their email to me, however, YouTube mentions an automated method they’ve created that can seek out at least songs automatically: “Partners may use our automated video / audio matching system to identify their content, or they may manually review videos.” Did some sort of spider crawl through my page and discover the use of the song? If so, that’d almost be cool. But let’s be realistic, it was probably a human busybody.
The right way to do something is what YouTube has empowered UMG to do in my case. I get to keep my silly video of Boss online. YouTube gets to keep a half decent and reasonably popular piece of content live, and UMG may someday, if they haven’t already, enjoy sales of Tom Jones CDs, DVDs or MP3s because a surfer heard the song on One Thirsty Kitty and fell in love with it. Apparently they are also now allowed to use the page OTK resides upon for advertising purposes. It’s a clever compromise and it benefits all three parties.
“Your video is still live because UMG has authorized the use of this content on YouTube. As long as UMG has a claim on your video, they will receive public statistics about your video, such as number of views. Viewers may also see advertising on your video’s page.”
Well done, YouTube Content Identification Team, and I sincerely mean that. This is progress.