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.