Google saves YouTube from 'death by copyright'
Hours before YouTube Inc. agreed to Google Inc.'s $1.65-billion (U.S.) takeover bid, the company was quietly working to cleanse its image as a copyright thief. The timing apparently wasn't a coincidence.What did I tell you? Classic copyright extortion.
During YouTube's meteoric rise, one of the knocks on the firm is that it wasn't always clear if the Internet video bazaar was a legitimate business or a Napster-like pirate.Do they ever stop?
After all, copyrighted music videos and TV clips are all over its website.
YouTube is sending an unequivocal message to the courts and media industry that it's going legit with a series of distribution deals with broadcasters and movie makers.
“The more YouTube and Google sign these kinds of deals, the more the courts are going to see this as a legitimate business,” argued lawyer Jason Schultz.
“Judges will be less likely to shut them down,” said Mr. Schultz, a staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Already, YouTube has made peace with a broad swath of the entertainment industry, including CBS Corp., Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and Warner Music. Under recently signed agreements, content providers supply clips and YouTube agrees to share resulting advertising revenue. As well, YouTube has promised to deploy new software to find and remove pirated videos.
“It takes those people out of the game and it mitigates the immediate legal threat,” Mr. Schultz added.
As recently as a few weeks ago, Universal and others were making noises about suing YouTube.
“Google should be able to navigate the sensitive [they mean shark infested] copyright waters,” agreed Mark May, an analyst at Needham & Co. in New York. “Many major content owners are already Google partners.”
Besides, Google and YouTube's top executives made a public pledge this week to find and stop copyright pirates from exploiting its site, pointed out CIBC World Markets analyst Paul Keung. “These distribution deals lay the foundation for a working relationship.”
That wasn't the case with Napster, Grokster and other so-called peer-to-peer music file-sharing sites. Their entire business was based on people openly and willfully pirating copyrighted music and video. As a result, the entertainment industry chose to sue, rather than do business with them.
YouTube, on the other hand, now has a model for dealing with content makers and a track record of co-operation. But YouTube and Google aren't completely out of the legal woods. Experts said the two companies will continue to face copyright infringement challenges.
“There will be more lawsuits. No question,” Mr. Schultz said.
Google has run into copyright problems, too, as it has pushed the boundaries of Internet searches. The firm is being sued by publishers and authors over plans to make portions of copyright books available on-line.The implication being - copyright prevents a lot of content providers from ever reaching the market.
Even in the Google fold, YouTube is likely to continue to test the limits of intellectual property rights on the Internet.
Businessman Mark Cuban, who founded Broadcast.com — an early version of YouTube — wrote on his blog this week that Google is headed into a legal minefield.
“I still think the Google lawyers will be a busy, busy bunch,” he wrote. “I don't think you can sue Google into oblivion, but ... if Google gets nailed one single time for copyright violation, there are going to more shareholder lawsuits than Doan's has [back pain] pills to [relieve the pain from] the pile-on copyright suits that follow.”
James Boyle, a law professor at Duke University and an expert on intellectual property on the Internet, pointed out that YouTube's business model remains untested against a tough new U.S. copyright law, the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law criminalizes the use of technology to skirt copyright — on the Internet and elsewhere. It could be argued that the searches and downloads on Google and YouTube facilitate copyright infringement.
However, the law allows companies to seek so-called “safe harbour” by quickly addressing known copyright infringement problems. [in other words, it's primarily designed to terrorize] In YouTube's case, the company routinely removes copyrighted material from its site once notified by content holders.
“The danger is that the courts go too far in cutting back on the safe harbour provision,” Prof. Boyle said. Nonetheless, he said there is a strong legal argument that YouTube is significantly different from file-sharing sites such as Napster because so many of its videos are not copyrighted.
“YouTube actually facilitates a lot of content providers,” he said.
The site has been a key outlet for advertisers and musicians to reach broader audiences.
In the end, he said he hopes the courts recognize that Internet search engines such as Google have revolutionized the way people communicate.
“Copying is part of searching,” Prof. Boyle said. “The technology has changed.”
Copying is also part of educating, informing and entertaining - in short everything that makes us human - and by handing the keys to the bulk of humanity's knowledge and culture over to a handful of money-changing monopolists, you condemn the remainder of humanity to a life of either ignorance or servitude.
I know many well-meaning people are attached to the concept of copyright, but my answer to a comment from an earlier post sums up why, in practice, it only benefits monied interests:
When [people] describe the copying of an artist's idea as "theft" [they] begin from the premise that copying it is a crime. While the idea is appealing, it is not [an] open shut case[.]Copyright and patent laws are an integral part of the master deception that convinces the masses that they 'owe tribute' to a handful of people for what is, in reality, God's creation. From these myths spring armies of willing slaves.
Granted a “creator” initially comes up with a creative idea. But, that doesn't mean that they're entitled to “exclusive” ownership of it. Exclusive rights to copyrights and patents are an instrumental legal fiction intended (by the Constitution) to 'promote the progress of science and the arts.'
But an artist’s "creativity" is not spawned in a vacuum. They build on the images and stimuli that are available all around them. In fact, most people are creative, if they bother to try.
Contrary to popular belief, extraordinary creativity is NOT what gives popular artists of today the commercial edge that they have. It’s largely the industrial and capital power behind them that enables them to saturate the market with "their creative product," such that it becomes part of the cultural landscape and an attractive idea to “steal.”
Once market penetration reaches critical mass, the creative product picks up exponential momentum, propelled by the natural desire of all humans to share their culture.
It is not only obscene, but indefensible that a handful of individuals should benefit both from the labor and assets of hundreds of millions of others AND the momentum of humanity’s need [and desire] to share culture, facilitated exponentially by industry and technology.
It does not promote the progress of science and arts. It promotes a culture of monopoly and greed, the PRINCIPAL BENEFACTORS being industrial capitalists (a.k.a., bankers and moneylenders), the ones that we know and love – the same ones who monopolize the money supply.
In fact, the way IP laws are set up, artists would be BETTER off if copyright laws were abolished because that would place more value on the artist and their original works (i.e, their LABOR). Now, artists are a dime a dozen and their copyrights automatically vest in their employers - by law.
I do not care if anyone and EVERYONE copies my posts verbatim as long as they do NOT copyright it and then attempt to limit its circulation to monopolize its benefit.