Mark Cuban atacks YouTube again

September 29, 2006

News:  Dallas Mavericks owner and tech billionaire Mark Cuban attacked YouTube again before a group of New York advertisers.  Cuban said that only a “moron” would buy YouTube, and predicted that YouTube would be “sued into oblivion” with copyright infringement lawsuits. “They are just breaking the law.  The only reason it hasn’t been sued yet is because there is nobody with big money to sue.” (More from ZdNet)

On his Blog Maverick, Cuban is a little bit more restrained in his assessment.  At least he doesn’t use the word “moron.”  He states:  “Im holding to my prediction on Youtube. The complexity of rights issues. Their lack of DRM. And that doesnt even account for the stupidity of subsidizing Myspace and hosting how many videos on myspace pages, millions ?? The minute they try to monetize those videos, you can bet Fox will have their own solution waiting to release. No Youtube on Myspace ? No Youtube on how many other pages once they start to try to incorporate ads (Yeah I know they said they wouldnt). What happens to their traffic ? All of the sudden rather than being the darling, the articles will be talking about the dramatic decline in traffic.

“If they dont incorporate ads, then thats even worse. Again, that means they are hosting the video of the net for free. Thats an ugly, no win business.

“A word of wisdom to the Youtube folks, sell if you can. A word of wisdom to a potential buyer, the minute the labels see even the hint of deep pockets they are going to come after you for all your worth. It will be a Lawyers Employment Act. Just ask Bertlesman about being the deep pockets behind Napster. Its not different this time.”

Analysis:  I’ve already explained here why I think Cuban’s predictions about YouTube’s decline is wrong.  Let me add a few more thoughts.

1.  Businesses do not perceive YouTube as Napster.  One of Cuban’s central premises is that YouTube is the same as Napster and will meet the same demise.  I don’t think that’s right, technologically speaking.  Importantly, YouTube allows sharing of video (not audio) files.  The video files are very short clips and do not substitute for the actual copyrighted shows or movies.  In fact, many broadcast and cable shows have permitted short clips of their shows onto YouTube, basically, for free advertising. 

You only need to look at the timeline to see that businesses have treated YouTube differently.  YouTube is nearly 1 year and 7 months old, and still the movie and music industry have not sued for alleged copyright infringement.   By contrast, Napster was just 7 months old when the major record labels sued it.  YouTube has already secured deals with NBC, Warner Music, Cingular, and other legitimate businesses.

2.  Big money could have sued YouTube by now.  Cuban is just dead wrong that the reason the industries haven’t sued YouTube is for the lack of money.  Are you kidding me?  The RIAA has been waging thousands of cases for music file sharing, and the movie studios joined in for the Grokster case.  I think the reason the music and movie industries have remained on the side lines is that both recognize the potential gold mine in having a website that attracts millions of eyeballs each day. 

3.  Business deals can take care of IP problems.  One of the big points that Cuban misses is that businesses quite routinely strike deals to take care of potential IP problems.  For example, early on, Yahoo sued Google for patent infringement on its search technology, and yet Google still exists today.  How?  The two parties struck a deal, in the face of uncertainty over who held the IP rights to the search technology.  Likewise, Warner Music has already struck a deal with YouTube to allow its music to be used on YouTube.  In such case, the uncertain copyright issues vanish.     


YouTube, getting corporate

September 28, 2006

News:  YouTube hired Suzie Reider as its Chief Marketing Officer, luring her away from CNET where she was senior VP general manager of entertainment.  (More here from mad.co.uk)

This comes on the heels of the hiring of Gideon Yu as CFO earlier this month.  Yu had been lured away from Yahoo, where he was treasurer and senior VP.

Analysis:  Just another sign that YouTube is trying to grow up.  One of the key points in Google’s evolution as a business occurred when co-founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin acquiesced — under pressure from its investors — to bringing in the experienced Eric Schmidt as CEO, luring him away from software maker Novell.  Co-founder Chad Hurley currently serves as CEO of YouTube.


Free Hug Guy and Sick Puppies on YouTube

September 28, 2006

News:  In Sydney, Australia, a guy named Juan Mann goes around the Pitt Street mall with a sign saying “Free Hugs.”  It may sound a little wacky, but apparently it became a small hit until reportedly police shut it down.  Mann organized a petition getting the necessary 10,000 signatures to continue the dispensing of free hugs to the public. 

This week, a video of the hug fest was posted on YouTube and it quickly became a huge sensation.  As of 10 a.m. today, the video had 849,691 hits and 6,149 comments. Yesterday, it was even shown on Good Morning, America.  The clip is quite slick, and synched with music from the band Sick Puppies, who authorized the use (to promote their music?).  (More from the Sydney Morning Herald

Analysis:  At first, the “Free Hug” guy sounded a little creepy to me.  After watching the video, though, I was won over.  First, it’s a slick production and that always help.  Second, when you see the interaction of the guy with all these different strangers who appear to be happy hugging with smiles on their faces, that can’t be a bad thing.  Of course, I’m assuming that what’s on the video is all a true story!


FOX News allows clips of Bill Clinton interview on YouTube

September 27, 2006

Apparently, FOX News realized that its demand to YouTube to remove Chris Wallace’s heated interview with Bill Clinton from YouTube’s site made no sense at all.  Webloggin reports that his and other removed clips of the Clinton interview were restored on YouTube.

As I reported yesterday here, I think it only helps FOX News to have this much-talked-about video surfacing all over the Internet, even on sites that haven’t asked for permission.  There’s no better way to create buzz for the FOX News division.  And there’s nothing in the Copyright Act that says the copyright owner can’t impliedly consent to such uses.


Maybe MySpace did not beat YouTube, after all

September 27, 2006

News:  Several commentators have posited explanations for why MySpace may have come out of head in a survey of the number of streamed videos from its site, even over YouTube.  I discussed the comScore survey here. 

Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal points out: (1) MySpace automatically streams video upon entry to a user’s page, meaning that if a friend visits your MySpace page several times a day, the videos will stream each time.  (2) a recent study of number of hits placed YouTube first, with 45.45%, and MySpace videos second, with 22.99%

Perhaps more importantly, Baker concludes:  “Regardless, Google, Yahoo and MSN still trail behind newcomers MySpace and YouTube in one or more studies, which should have the major media outlets and search engines looking for ways to plan to do battle with these new media outlets.”

Analysis:  Baker’s explanation of the comScore survey seems fairly persuasive.  To the extent MySpace allows automatic streaming without the need for the user to click on a video, that would raise the possibility of an inflated number of streamed videos.   


Video of Bill Clinton going ballistic on FOX’s Chris Wallace

September 27, 2006

News: On Sunday, former President Bill Clinton got into an angry verbal joust with FOX News’s Chris Wallace, who questioned his record in going after Bin Laden.  Things deteriorated to the point where President Clinton accused Wallace of carrying out a “conservative hit job” on him.

Highlights of the verbal joust were shown on all the networks Sunday night.  FOX News put the video up on its website.  Eventually, clips made their way onto YouTube and other sites.  At some point today, however, FOX News, as the copyright owner, reportedly asked YouTube to remove all the clips of the interview from its site.  YouTube did, consistent with its policy of taking down copyrighted content when notice is provided by the copyright owner.  YouTube had a message indicating:   “This video has been removed at the request of copyright owner Fox News Network, LLC because its content was used without permission.” (More here)

Now, however, it appears that clips of the interview have resurfaced on YouTube.  (See here)  This suggests either that FOX News had a change of heart and is allowing the clips to be played on YouTube, or other users of YouTube have posted the clips more recently. 

Analysis:  It’s hard not to be a little bit cynical about the entire interview, on both sides.  A lot of hullabaloo is being made over what seems to be a pretty insignificant event from a news or policy standpoint. For what it’s worth, I think FOX News should just let the clips run freely on the Internet.  The clip has already aired so much on TV on different networks.  It will only help promote their news division to allow the clips to play freely on the Internet.


Lazydork: prosecutor by day, YouTube wannabe by night

September 26, 2006

Richard Stern was a prosecutor for Dade County in Florida.  But, unbeknownst to his colleagues, he also wanted to be a star on the Internet, so he shot amusing (perhaps ridiculous) videos of himself and uploaded them onto YouTube.  Not necessarily the best move for a prosecutor.

Fearing that his YouTube videos would be discovered and hurt his ability as a prosecutor, Stern quit and decided to move to Las Vegas to become a professional poker player.  Now that’s going all in.  (More from MiamiHerald


The political power of YouTube

September 26, 2006

Just a year and a half old, and YouTube is already impacting the political campaigns of several politicians.  Video of candidates “caught on tape” saying something insensitive or stupid find their way onto YouTube for public consumption.  It makes you wonder what politicians say behind closed doors.

The most famous involves this video taken by a supporter of candidate James Webb.  Senator George Allen infamously called the Webb supporter (who is of Indian descent) a “macaca,” a word referring to a type of monkey that can be considered a racial slur when used to describe a person.  After two public apologies, Senator Allen has seen his double digit lead evaporate to a statistical tie with his opponent. 

CBS reports of another incident involving Senator Joe Biden, who is caught on tape saying, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking!”

The sad part is that Senator Biden wasn’t joking, and that he was speaking to someone who appeared to be of Indian descent.


Cisco develops video sharing for businesses

September 26, 2006

Cisco announced the development of video streaming software that would make it easier for businesses to stream video to computers and hand held devices.  VP Marthin De Beer said, “I think of it as the YouTube for business.” (More from San Jose Mercury News)


MySpace tops YouTube in July

September 26, 2006

News:  comScore reportedly will issue a report today for the most popular video streaming sites in July.  The popular social networking site MySpace has come out on top, in terms of the number of streams initiated, unique streamers, and streams per streamers.  Marketwatch reports the figures as follows:

Streams initiated     Unique streamers    Streams per
Total Internet——7,182—–106,534————— 67.4
MySpace————-1,459——37,422—————–39
Yahoo sites———–812——37,934—————-21.4
YouTube—————649——-30,538—————-21.2
Time Warner———258——25,675—————-10.1
ROO Group———–186——-5,841—————–31.9
Microsoft sites——-156——-16,227—————-9.6
Viacom Digital——–322——-14,077—————22.9
Google sites———–60———7,520—————-7.9
Ebaumsworld———67———-7,143————— 9.4
MLB———————–30——— 6,442—————- 4.6

Analysis:  I’m surprised by both MySpace coming in No. 1 and YouTube coming in No. 3.  Time to pay attention to MySpace more.  Apparently, it’s a place for more than just expanding your social network.


Will Internet overtake TV?

September 25, 2006

No matter how you slice it, the conventional television set is pretty sedentary.  Viewers sit in front of it, and can basically veg out.  The Internet is potentially different.  It allows users to create and/or comment on content.  And it gives users greater freedom to pick and choose the content they want to watch whenever and however many times they want. 

It’s still hard to imagine, however, the day when the Internet overtakes the TV as primary conduit of entertainment communication, the outlet that millions of Americans turn to first.  But that may just be starting to happen according to the following articles:

1.  Diane Mermigas, Democratic Party, Hollywood Reporter.

“Already clear in its nascent, exploding stage is that the Web video and text that the average Joe creates for consumption (and often endless replay) by an audience of one or millions — anytime, anywhere — will have an extraordinary effect on commercial media and entertainment worldwide, the extent of which cannot yet be comprehended. But many bright minds are trying to figure it out.”

2.  Sarah Lacey, Let the Web Entertain You, BusinessWeek.

“[T]he Web has become a hub of entertainment is no shocker, of course. What’s been more of a surprise is just how quickly and extensively the Internet is replacing traditional content over consumer electronics devices like TVs and PCs outfitted with media-compatible software and hardware. Computer makers like Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and software giants like Microsoft (MSFT) long hoped they’d play a bigger role with so-called media center PCs.”


Chicken Noodle Soup dance: how YouTube can help undiscovered talent

September 25, 2006

News:  Two teenagers from Harlem — DJ Webstar and Young B — have a recording contract with Universal Records after being discovered on YouTube.  The duo’s popular rap song “Chicken Noodle Soup” became popular at Harlem teen venues.  It even has its own dance.

Once videos of the song were uploaded onto YouTube, the popularity grew across the country, drawing hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube.  (More here

Analysis:  Discovering undiscovered talent provides a benefit to society.  To the extent technology like YouTube can facilitate the process, it should be applauded and cultivated.  The story of “Chicken Noodle Soup” is just one of many examples of YouTube helping to discover undiscovered talent.

As far as the rap and dance “Chicken Noodle Soup” go, it’s a fun tune, but not necessarily one of my favorites. 


Will copyright change YouTube, or will YouTube change copyright?

September 25, 2006

News:  Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has an excellent article analyzing some of the potential copyright problems that YouTube might face if copyright holders attempted to enforce their copyrights on content being uploaded onto YouTube.  For now, most copyright holders (such as the music and movie industries) haven’t, although this could change.  As Johnson explains:

“NBC Universal digital content chief Jeff Gaspin said it doesn’t bother him that, for instance, almost every moment of the romantic comedy’s central relationship, between office-mates Jim and Pam, is now up on YouTube, some 15 videos of eight or so minutes apiece amounting, in total, to almost a mini-version of the Season 2 Two DVD set.

“If the Internet helps create buzz for us, great,” Gaspin said, reasoning that the Jim and Pam relationship could join TV classics like such as Sam and Diane (“Cheers”) and Ross and Rachel (“Friends”), but first viewers have to find out about it.

“When you take into account NBC’s moderate shift in stance, and, for instance, Comedy Central’s wink-and-a-nod at the proliferation of “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” clips that users upload, you understand that many copyright holders seem to be deciding that the promotional value of YouTube appearances is more valuable than any revenue that might be gained by forcing users to the holders’ own Web sites.

“But others aren’t so sanguine. Last week, Doug Morris, CEO of the giant Universal Music Group, was speaking of YouTube and the less-copyright-dependent MySpace when he said, “These new businesses are copyright infringers and owe us tens of millions of dollars.”

Analysis:  Copyright is the 64 thousand — or million — dollar question for YouTube.  Part of its current success rests on copyright holders taking at least a “wait and see” attitude before running pell mell to sue YouTube for alleged copyright infringement.  So far, this “wait and see” attitude seems prudent for businesses, as YouTube generates a lot of free advertising for copyrighted material.  YouTube has the millions of eyeballs that copyright holders want. 


YouTube Underground: an American Idol for YouTube

September 20, 2006

News:  YouTube just keeps on announcing major initiatives.  It just announced a deal with Cingular and ABC to set up a competition for unknown, unsigned musical talent on YouTube.  Bands will be able to send videos of themselves performing for the competition from October 2 through 18.  Then, people can vote for their favorites and the finalists will appear on “Goodmorning, America” for the finals. (More from Reuters.)  If you have a band and want to enter, more about YouTube Underground can be found here.

Analysis: Great idea.  I love it.   One of the appeals of the mega-hit show American Idol is that it discovers unknown talent from all parts of the United States, even from remote locations like Checotah, Oklahoma, the home of Carrie Underwood.  YouTube Underground is even more grassroots in its search for unknown talent because the people apparently will be able to select the contestants from the start, unlike the early selection process in American Idol by three judges. 


Microsoft launches MSN Soapbox to compete with YouTube

September 19, 2006

News:  Microsoft launched its beta version of its video sharing software called Soapbox.  It’s not completely open to the public, though: you have to sign up to receive a special invite for a private test.  The full public launch apparently may be months away.

Analysis:  Just another sign how hot the video file sharing industry is right now.  Microsoft seems a little late to the game, again having to play catch-up.  Bill Gates is a genius, but when’s no longer in charge of the day-to-day operations, things seem different for Microsoft. 


U.S. government joins YouTube bandwagon

September 19, 2006

News: The U.S. government just announced that it will be using YouTube to distribute anti-drug videos in its campaign against drug use, especially by teenagers.  John Walters, Bush’s top drug official, said. “Public institutions must adapt to meet the realities of these promising technologies.” (More from Wash Post)

Analysis: This is another sign of the growing popularity of YouTube among legitimate providers of content.  Having the U.S. government use YouTube is absolutely huge, in terms of the legitimacy of the company.  It also makes sense to try to reach teenagers through YouTube, since many spend their time surfing through videos.  One thing that has set YouTube apart from the typical website is that the average user spends a significant amount of Internet time on YouTube.


Mark Cuban attacks YouTube, predicts its demise

September 18, 2006

News:  Tech billionaire (and owner of the Dallas Mavericks) Mark Cuban has written on his blog today what sounds like a polemic against YouTube.  Cuban sees YouTube’s popularity as palming off a bunch of copyright infringement of music and videos.  Not one to mince words, Cuban basically predicted the demise of YouTube once copyright holders start enforcing their copyrights.

Analysis:  Cuban made his post before realizing that Warner Music had just announced its big deal with YouTube.  He even had to update it later on to acknowledge the deal, but only begrudgingly.  Cuban then dismisses the deal as insignificant:

“Does this make a difference in my thinking ? Not at all. In fact its reminds me of when Bertelsman cut a deal with Napster. It sure sounded nice, but didnt amount to much of anything. Kudos to WMG for giving them a chance and probably leveraging the hell out of Youtubes traffic, but this is just one copyright owner out of the thousands, if not tens of thousands owning copyrights that are most likely being illegally used on Youtube.”

I think Cuban is wrong.  YouTube is not Napster because Napster wasn’t about video clips.  The big difference with YouTube is that the movie and TV studios can potentially profit immensely from the viral advertising of snippets of their copyrighted works.  The short clips on YouTube typically don’t substitute for the actual works. And when you have the attention of millions of Internet users each day, for an average of 15 odd minutes, you have a bonanza for advertising.  That’s why major networks like NBC have agreed to license content on YouTube. 


Warner Music partners up with YouTube

September 18, 2006

News:  Warner Music Group and YouTube announced a major deal that would reportedly allow users of YouTube to use any music or video clip contained in Warner Music’s portfolio.  In exchange, Warner Music would market their music videos on YouTube’s site with advertising allowed in the clips.  A press released stated that “YouTube and WMG will share revenue from advertising on both WMG music videos and user uploaded videos that incorporate audio and audiovisual works from WMG’s catalog.”  YouTube also plans on rolling out a filtering system to help track uses of the copyrighted works for royalties. (More from MSNBC and Ars Technica.)

“Partnering with Warner Music Group is one of the most significant milestones for our company and our community, and shifts the paradigm in this new media movement,” Chad Hurley, YouTube’s chief executive and co-founder, said. “By providing a new distribution opportunity, we are paving the way for media companies to harness the vast financial potential of user-generated content on YouTube.”

Analysis: This is welcome news, less than a week after Universal Music appeared to be threatening YouTube with a copyright lawsuit for unauthorized replaying of Universal’s music in videos on YouTube (see here).  The deal between Warner Music and YouTube is a “win-win” situation, and shows how the music industry can embrace new technologies to their advantage.  

The innovative deal allows the creation of a new market, one that allows both (i) the creation of video clips by amateurs on YouTube using Warner’s music and videos and (2) advertising and royalties of some sort to Warner, the copyright holder.  In the process, a new technology is allowed to develop.

I think the deal makes a lot of sense.  It’s hard to see a major economic harm to the recording studios’ existing market if some kid “synchs” his home-made video with a copyrighted song, as appears to be the case with some of the amateur videos on YouTube.  The “synched” recording on the video will unlikely be a substitute for the music itself – kids won’t be trading video files so they can listen to the music on their iPod.  The video (more so than any music) is what drives the popularity of the clips on YouTube.  My guess is that most of the makers of the amateur video clips on YouTube wouldn’t pay a dime for the use of the copyrighted works on the videos.  What the deal today does is to strike a creative solution so that all sides can benefit. 


Lonelygirl15 on YouTube

September 16, 2006

I couldn’t start off this blog without some good news about YouTube.  The New York Times ran several pieces on “Lonelygirl15,” an actress who masqueraded as a teenager in a strict religious family who would share her innermost thoughts on video clips on YouTube.  The clips attracted thousands of viewers. (Articles here and here.)  Turns out it was apparently all a ruse for a commercial project that could turn into a movie.

Despite the ruse, the incident shows some of the promise in YouTube in facilitating the creation of expressive works.


The problem of “snuff” clips and propaganda on YouTube

September 16, 2006

News:  The Internet darling YouTube faced a tough week, this week.  One record company appeared to be threatening a copyright lawsuit (see below), while there were press reports that some video clips surfacing on YouTube contained scenes of American soldiers being killed in Iraq.  Even worse, the clips were believed to be created by Iraqi insurgent groups.  (The Hawaii Star Bulletin has the full story.)

Analysis: I’ve wondered what kind of screening process YouTube engages in before any video is allowed to become available on its site.  Does an employee have to review each one, or is the scrutiny less onerous?  Either way, I think YouTube should consider ways to stop these utterly graphic, propaganda clips from their site.


Universal Music poised to sue YouTube

September 16, 2006

News: This week, Universal Music CEO Doug Morris blasted the video-sharing site YouTube.com (and the social networking site MySpace) for allowing copyright infringement of Universal’s music on YouTube’s site. For those not familiar with YouTube, people can upload short videos to share with others on the site. Some people who make these videos sometimes incorporate copyrighted music into their clips, of course, without authorization of the copyright owners. Therein lies the problem.

“We believe these new businesses are copyright infringers and owe us tens of millions of dollars. How we deal with these companies will be revealed shortly,” Morris said.  That’s no doubt a thinly veiled threat of a lawsuit. (AP has more.)

Analysis: This is the time bomb that’s been waiting to happen for YouTube.com, since it was founded in February 2005.  By and large, the company has avoided a major copyright lawsuit.  In July 2006, the copyright owner of video taken of Reginald Denny’s beating in the LA riots sued YouTube (see here), but that lawsuit represents small potatoes when compared to what might happen if Universal sues for what it claims is “tens of millions of dollars.” 

Based on my understanding, YouTube has a policy of taking down video clips for which it receives a complaint from the copyright owner or others that someone has used copyrighted work without authorization.  Whether this policy is sufficient enough may be tested if a lawsuit is filed.

Let’s hope that Universal shows some restraint, though.  Warner Brothers Records and Capitol Records have used YouTube as advertising by running their music videos on YouTube.  And the movie and television studios have also attempted to find ways to exploit YouTube to their advantage, despite what appears to be unauthorized copying of clips from their works by some users.