In the early days of fandom, studios routinely sent out cease and desist letters to fanzine publishers who were producing original works based on the characters from their favorite shows. It had a finger in the dyke effect, stopping one writer as twenty more popped up. In other words, it was useless.
When video software became common and YouTube hit the web, the studios began battling another, bigger problem, that of the unauthorized use of clips from shows. In order to plug the holes, YouTube created their Content ID system which scans videos and compares them to a list of items provided by the owner of the copyright. Then, like a virtual cease and desist letter, the software would block the offending videos, but who really wins? The studio gets their way, but the fans get mad and that’s never a good thing.
I would venture to say the 98% of all violating videos actually do more good than harm. At worst, they’re free advertising for a TV show, movie or song. At best, they’re another avenue to make money and now YouTube has that covered. They’re now offering content partners the choice of splitting ad revenue rather than blocking a video.
According to a recent article in the NY Times, “more than one-third of the two billion views of YouTube videos with ads each week are . . . uploaded without the copyright owner’s permission but left up by the owner’s choice.”
Here’s a fan video for my favorite show Supernatural. If Warner Brothers agrees to be a content partner, then they would split the revenue being brought in by the ad shown here. YouTube does some double dipping on this one, by placing a second ad for an iTunes download of the song used in the video and you can bet those ads are effective.
Says the NY Times:
“In the last year, the video site has become a significant contributor to the family business at a time when Google, which makes more than 90 percent of its revenue from text search ads, is seeking a second act.”
YouTube execs say getting past the lawyers and up to the studio decision makers wasn’t easy, but Chris Maxcy, director of content partnerships told the NY Times, “Now the partners we are working with get checks that get bigger every month. And now when you walk into a meeting there’s almost no lawyers, or there’s a couple of lawyers but they are deal lawyers there to help you get your contract done.”
Proof that money really does talk and it’s not only talking to studios. Content partners comes in all sizes at YouTube and many of them are making enough money from their ads to make it their full-time job.
What do you think? Would you be willing to overlook copyright violations if it meant more money for your business? Or is this setting a bad precedent for any future litigation regarding copyright violations online?