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Google and Time Warner: How YouTube Stole My Friend's Career

Google and Time Warner: How YouTube Stole My Friend's Career

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I've got a buddy who is a very talented musician.  He has talked to several record companies, and they all have the same story:  we would love to sign you, but we just don't have any money to promote you and get you started.  Sales are down, profits are down, and they attribute a large portion of that lost revenue to illegal downloads.  It's a much different story when you remove huge companies from the subject line and replace them with a personal face and see how it affects the guys actually trying to make a living making music.

I read this today, and my jaw dropped.  The audacity here is simply baffling.

He said there are ways for the music industry to experiment and innovate in a way that still supports their core business of selling recorded music - he cited the YouTube buttons sending people to buy songs on Amazon as an example.

[via "Google boss denies 'screwing' music industry and defends YouTube in Warner row"]

By this same logic, this guy would justify Best Buy burning their own CDs of copyrighted music and handing them out for free with every purchase, as long as they include a link to Amazon's web site in the CD cover.  Or better, maybe Circuit City would still be in business if they would have burned copies of copyrighted DVD movies and handed them out for free with purchase so long as they included information on how to purchase a legitimate copy.  Wow, I am stunned.

He then goes on:

The people who upload videos aren't typically intellectual property experts. They just love the music. These people would have been the presidents of your fanclubs before. So do you punish them, yell at them, block their content from going up?

Umm... yes!  Certainly everyone agrees that content should be blocked if it is not properly licensed.  No, the people who upload videos aren't typically IP experts, but even kids in elementary school are taught about plagiarism... they know that they aren't supposed to do it, but they do it because the website allows them to.  It's not up to the individual, it's up to the site provider that is making tons of money from illegally shared content.

  • > they attribute a large portion of that lost revenue to illegal downloads

    Of course they would, it's the easiest thing to put blame on, and absolves them of any responsibility as well. How very convenient.

    As for "sales are down"... well duh... they're down in the entire world economy, and especially so in the luxury & entertainment industries. No surprise there, and these hard times are even harder for some.

  • I think the problem is the record companies don't want to change if that change means they will lose control. iTunes Store has show that people are more than willing to pay for music if it is convenient to get onto their digital players (iPod, Zune, PC etc). But by doing this the records companies lose a lot of the influence they have on the market so instead they just blame it on illegal downloads and piracy, put their head in the sand and hope it goes away. Well they better wake up because in the digital age, digital music is going nowhere.

  • During the days of napster - people were uploading and sharing the music files themselves and hence were directly infringing the creator's rights. This is the reason that BestBuy cannot burn and give away music for free (as per your example).

    But YouTube brings in a brand new dimension to this issue. The videos typically contain user generated content - slide shows, home videos, etc.... This makes them derivative works or art... so are you saying that YouTube should block people from uploading their home videos just because they contain music from a CD?

    A big problem causing an issue here is that the law hasnt yet caught up with the technology. But in writing new laws, we have to be careful so that we dont stiffle creativity of the common joe.

    The following video is a good talk on this issue. Highly recommend you watching it....

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html

  • @rajah - Interesting points, but miss one huge point... even derivative works are subject to licensing, as in the point of sampling music (this point was made famous by Vanilla Ice sampling Queen's "Under Pressure" for his hit "Ice Ice Baby" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Ice_Baby).  I get Lessig's point, but think that it's an awful one-sided view that fails to take the original content producer into account.

    Someone might try to make the argument, "but home movies with copyrighted music aren't for profit."  Hmm... maybe not for profit to the content producer, but certainly for profit to YouTube who makes a ton of money from advertising.  There is profit, and the original content producers should receive money from this.

    This is the same issue that caused the writers' strike last year.  The writers create the original works, then they show up on YouTube, and they don't receive compensation.  Yet YouTube continues to make a ton of money through advertising without paying royalties because the content was posted by some kid from Scranton "who isn't an expert in intellectual property issues."  The writers (fairly) wanted their cut, and went on strike to make that point to the studios.

    It seems romantic somehow what Lessig talked about, but it missed the point that the original creators' rights are violated when someone else uses their work and creates something new and the original creator is not compensated.

  • @rajah - Interesting points, but miss one huge point... even derivative works are subject to licensing, as in the point of sampling music (this point was made famous by Vanilla Ice sampling Queen's "Under Pressure" for his hit "Ice Ice Baby" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Ice_Baby).  I get Lessig's point, but think that it's an awful one-sided view that fails to take the original content producer into account.

    Someone might try to make the argument, "but home movies with copyrighted music aren't for profit."  Hmm... maybe not for profit to the content producer, but certainly for profit to YouTube who makes a ton of money from advertising.  There is profit, and the original content producers should receive money from this.

    This is the same issue that caused the writers' strike last year.  The writers create the original works, then they show up on YouTube, and they don't receive compensation.  Yet YouTube continues to make a ton of money through advertising without paying royalties because the content was posted by some kid from Scranton "who isn't an expert in intellectual property issues."  The writers (fairly) wanted their cut, and went on strike to make that point to the studios.

    It seems romantic somehow what Lessig talked about, but it missed the point that the original creators' rights are violated when someone else uses their work and creates something new and the original creator is not compensated.

  • You should really stick to your stance of not talking politics on a technical blog. You obviously don't know what you're talking about here and shouldn't unload your political views on your readers.

  • If record companies could, they'd sue every kid who ever played a cd for his friend.  They want every song ever played outloud to generate revenue for them (as evidenced by an effort last year to charge RIAA public performance fees to local musicians covering signed artists in coffee shops).  There is (evident in this post, as well as generally in the Big Corporate Music Industry) a fundamental ignorance of promotion in the old media and its adherents that will inevitably lead to their demise, just as surely as there aren't many coopers around today who aren't employed by the liquor industry.

    If Joe puts up a video for this band he likes up on YouTube, an I am Joe's friend, I am likely to watch the video and see what all the fuss is about.  If I like it, I'll see about getting the CD from iTunes.  That is, in fact, exactly how I go about finding new music.  This generates revenue for the label and the musician.  (Or it WOULD generate revenue for the musician, if the labels paid anything out to the actual artist.)  Since my social network has moved out of the arcades, parking lots, and record stores of my youth and online, connecting members of that network to new media has also made the transition.  Record companies can't behind that, because they don't understand the evolution of social networking, and they're not creative enough to come up with new revenue streams.

    This Amazon thing mentioned, for instance.  The record co puts up a video on YouTube with a link to iTunes (to download the song/album) and Amazon (to the album page).  iTunes gives them a kickback via affiliate revenue, as does Amazon.  The record co should give a portion of that kickback to the artist.  When the clicker buys the album, they get a portion of that as a media purchase anyhow.  As an added benefit, for a customer going through an Amazon affiliate link, the affiliate gets 20% of everything they buy for 24 hours.  Not bad money on the small scale.

    That's really what we're talking about -- record companies have to learn to look at micro-income and reduce their overhead, rather than big purchase.  There's still resistance, for instance, to buying by the song through iTunes.  Backward, backward.  Artists have to learn not to depend on Big Labels for promotion, and self-promote.  They'll make more money during their growing popularity that way anyhow.

    There are also differences between Derivative Works and Fair Use, some of which applies to YouTube videos, but that's covered at length elsewhere.

    This is the first article on your blog I've read, for the record.  I'm not passing any judgement on your technical prowess based on this, but Mikael is probably right.

    (bv, http://neovore.com, http://flowmingle.com)

  • Mikael - obviously you should pause before typing, I never mentioned politics here.  It's a technology discussion.

    bv - It's their product.  They can charge for it how they want and license people to use it how they want.  It's not up to you to decide that, just because you thought up some new delivery mechanism that it makes it OK to distribute without prior license.  In other words, you can't just start putting copies of Metallica songs on your web page for people to download and call it your work because you also put some Flash movie with it.  

    Just because someone puts up a website that makes it easy to violate the license doesn't vilify the record and media companies, it puts them in the unenviable position of defending what's theirs.  It's their product to sell as they choose, and that's what companies have been doing when they pull content from YouTube.  You can be unhappy with it, but saying that companies have to look at micro-income and reduce their overhead ignores the fact that they are simply enforcing the license that everyone knew existed to begin with.

    It's pretty timely that book authors are now suing Google over their book search...  they aren't putting up with the loss of revenue, either.  

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10162155-93.html

    It just enforces what I said:  the creator of the product is the one who decides how the product is sold and consumed.  The creator of the product is not just the book author or the singer in the recording, the creator is also the record company who funded the creation of the product, the production, the promotion, and made the investment to make it happen.  The authors here are right in defending themselves, just as the record companies are right in defending themselves.

    To your point on Amazon... there's a big difference between the record company putting content up on YouTube and cutting a deal versus the content being delivered elsewhere without their permission.  That's why Hulu exists, NBC and News Corp were sick of their content going to YouTube without their permission and them not seeing the revenue for their own product.  YouTube makes a ton of money on advertising, and that money should go to the record companies when it's their work that draws the page views.  

    Your scenario about Joe putting a video up on YouTube of a band he likes... the whole point of this post is questioning where he obtained the video from.  Did he go to a concert and film it?  If so, that's not legal. That's like justifying going to the cinema and filming a new release and putting it up on YouTube just because you like it.  If Joe puts up a link to Amazon, it's still not legal.  It's been that way for a very long time, even before ReRun tried to tape record the Doobie Brothers during a live concert on "What's Happening".  

    You need to remind yourself that the video or song you consume is not just a file that you have free access to do with as you please, it is a product with associated licensing.  Proclaiming the imminent doom of an industry because they don't conform to your view of how business works doesn't help your case, either.  

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