Commentary

YouTube's Is A Victory For Entrepreneurs, Sure -- But the Web?

Most of my industry news and articles comes to me via Twitter and a few select aggregators.  I read few blogs on a regular basis.   One exception to that is AVC.com, which is the blog of influential venture capitalist Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures.  Between the frequency and quality of Wilson's posts and the discussion that often arises, it is a daily stop for me.

Last week, Wilson wrote a short post noting that New York Judge Louis Stanton issued his opinion on the ongoing legal battle between Google and Viacom (which was the main reason YouTube sold to Google).  In short, Judge Stanton ruled in favor of YouTube, saying that it was compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This sets a precedent that sites with user-posted content that infringes on copyrights must comply with take-down requests, but do not have to proactively monitor their sites and do so unprompted.   Wilson called this a "huge" victory for entrepreneurs and the Web in general.

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I understand this in the context that other entrepreneurs under similar circumstances won't have to sell their companies, as YouTube did.  But is this a win for the Web in the long term: creating a situation where content owners' work can be posted without their consent or compensation?

The media and entertainment business is in a massive flux as a result of the Web.  Much of it is positive, but one has to be living under a rock not to have heard statements from media executives lamenting the fact that creating quality content requires resources -- and that current revenue models are not sustainable for the continuation of those models.  Witness the continual paywall conversations about the New York Times and Hulu, as examples.

I think I understand what Wilson means by how this is good for the Web.  With the ever increasing number of users accessing and ultimately spending more time on Web-based services, these content creators will have their work exposed to many users who otherwise wouldn't have seen them.  And ultimately that will be a good thing for their business and hopefully spawn new revenue and innovation.

But what if it's not a good thing?  What if it causes further complications for content creators, whose work is one of the fundamental things that make the Web enjoyable?  What if this leads to the reduction in quality content available online in the future?  No one would call that a victory.  Time will tell.

3 comments about "YouTube's Is A Victory For Entrepreneurs, Sure -- But the Web?".
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  1. David Hawthorne from HCI LearningWorks, July 1, 2010 at 9:21 a.m.

    Of course its a victory for the Web. Every content creator understands that whatever value is created comes not from the creation, but from the satisfaction of a consumer's need. Yes, there are people who write diaries for themselves, and draw obscene little sketches they to hide in their school books, but most content creators yearn for an audience. It's the other half of performance.

    If anyone thinks enough of what I create to "share it," great. If it creates an awareness of my work, an appetite for more, then better still. When consumers of my work are willing to pay for it, the "secret sharer" becomes a "thief" if s/he does not offer me fair value for my work from which s/he profits. It they continue to "steal" my work, I have the right to seek a remedy at law. My tacit approval of the "early sharing" can't be deemed to be an explicit renunciation of my ownership rights, "Take it down," I say, and the sharer should comply or risk becoming a "thief."

    To often, we are not dealing with the actual "creator" of content, but with the "producer/distributor" who has "purchased" or otherwise wrested or coerced ownership rights from the "creator" and has substituted his "ownership" for the "rights of the creator." It's a Faustian deal often, but what the hey? Sometimes you can sell your soul without losing it.

    So don't cry for "creators" of a "technical system" for connecting "creatives" to "audiences." They entered the game with an exit strategy. It may have been executed for less than their wildest dreams allowed, but they "sold." All those "creators" out there creating iPhone apps understand the game. It is what it is. On the other hand, there's some gifted artist somewhere feverishly sketching the cells of the next lewd graphic novel, and if s/he can't get an audience beyond the confines of her garage in Cleveland, "bagging" at Associated is all s/he has to look forward to. "Please! Steal This Book!".

  2. Eric Steckel from Turnpike Digital, July 2, 2010 at 6:04 p.m.

    A concern that I see as a marketer is that it further blurs the fair use of copyrighted material. I wrote a blog entry about this at http://barstone.wordpress.com/

    The bottom line is that it will now require more education on the part of marketers to make sure that clients understand that this covers service providers, not those that actually infringed on the copyright.

  3. Pinaki Saha from Me!Box Media Inc., July 5, 2010 at 12:33 p.m.

    I think that the general mindset of content distributors (again, not just creators) needs to gear-shift soon or else content syndication or multi-location appearance will destabilize their existing revenue models the same way iPod did to audio industry. Besides, they have to look into content as a platform for many different things - contextual content placement, value-added subscription services, paid syndication, co-placement branding opportunities, long-tail, product placement... and so much more. You have to embrace web3.0/2.0 on your content right now and not limit yourself to a single (only available) channel of distribution.

    twitter.com/pinakis

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