Truthiness report: Mark Cuban posts hearsay + speculation about Google-YouTube deal, later = near fact

October 31, 2006

News:  Mark Cuban ran an “insider’s” post about what went down in the Google-YouTube deal from an unnamed source who claimed to have second-hand knowledge from “people involved” in the Google-YouTube deal, but who openly admitted to be adding some pure speculation.  To his credit, Cuban admits that he has done no fact-checking and can’t vouch for the accuracy of the post (although Cuban does trust the source).

Despite the anonymous hearsay + speculation in Cuban’s post, it has already been reported as near fact, if not fact itself, on ZDNet, Search Engine Watch, and other sites.

Analysis:  I think it’s fine for Mark Cuban to blog this story with a disclaimer about its accuracy.  But it seems like the old trap of telling a story to one friend, who tells it to another, who tells it to another, etc.  By the time the story has traveled around, here, the Internet, it is transformed from speculation to near fact.  Now that’s truthiness.

LX.TV Lifestyle Television: making your own TV network, online

October 31, 2006

News: Elizabeth Holmes writes today in the WSJ about LX.TV, a website that plans to provide online programs for lifestyle and entertainment for the hip and fashionable.  The article is not freely available, but here’s a money line:

 “[The founders of LX.TV] hope to capitalize on the recent attention by coupling the Web’s cheap start-up costs and on-demand delivery system with a tried-and-true television formula: Find attractive young people.  Put them in front of a camera.  Surround them with expensive clothes, throbbing music, potent potables, fashionable nosh and more attractive, affluent young people.”

Analysis: The potential of a web network taking hold is exciting.  The start page for LX.TV seems a little slow to load, though.  Once I got to the videos, they were pretty slick.

Flash: TV shows go Internet

October 31, 2006

News:  USA Today has an excellent article, Networks work with Net, which discusses how the major networks are putting up more and more videos of at least some of their shows:  “In most cases, episodes are streamed starting the day after broadcast to give fans a chance to catch up on missed episodes and to attract new viewers. In a reverse twist, CBS’ Innertube site will air all seven episodes of canceled serial Smith and have the producers explain where the story was headed.”


NBC 24/7 video

CBS innertube

Fox on MySpace

The CW

Comedy Central

Analysis:  I just did a quick run through of each of the above sites.  They are getting slicker and slicker.  This is one of those watershed moments that we’ll look back on as being the start of something good.  Bye, bye, TV.

More on YouTube + DMCA safe harbor

October 30, 2006

News:  In the past week, a few more articles have come out analyzing the potential copyright liability of YouTube.  I’ll note two of them that conclude that YouTube most likely is safe from liability under the DMCA safe harbor provision, Section 512 of the Copyright Act.

1. John Berman, ABC, Could Copyright Fight Strip YouTube of Content? 

“But just because the videos are on the site, doesn’t mean YouTube has broken the law. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 2000, largely protects Internet sites from liability and states they have little responsibility for what people post. This legislation may be the reason that although requests have come in for videos to be removed, so long as the site complies it’s doubtful that anyone could successfully sue YouTube.”

2.  Tim Wu, Slate, Does YouTube Really Have Legal Problems? 

“Thanks to the Bells, all these companies are now protected by a ‘notice and take down’ system when they host user content. That means that if Jon Stewart notices an infringing copy of The Daily Show on YouTube, Comedy Central can write a letter to YouTube and demand it be taken down. Then, so long as YouTube acts ‘expeditiously’ and so long as YouTube wasn’t already aware that the material was there, YouTube is in the clear. In legal jargon, YouTube is in a ‘safe harbor.'”

Analysis:  Both articles are well worth a read.  They attempt to lay out in understandable terms how the DMCA safe harbor operates for websites like YouTube. Tim Wu’s article does a nice job in describing some of the legislative history behind the DMCA safe harbor, particularly the Bell telephone companies’ efforts lobbying for the safe harbor. 

I do disagree with Tim Wu, though, on his assertion that “YouTube provides a search, and maybe it could be liable for that,” a point that he repeats when trying to explain why YouTube is different from Napster:  “Napster wasn’t ‘hosting’ information at the direction of its users, but rather providing a tool for users to find and download predominantly infringing content. It may sound odd that Napster gets in more trouble for helping you find illegal stuff than YouTube does for actually hosting it. But that’s the law…”

To me, this argument seems just wrong on both the law and facts.  The DMCA safe harbor provision contains a specific subsection for location tools provided by websites (Section 512(d)).  It would be very odd if the DMCA didn’t–Google would be toast by now.  The real reason Napster did not successfully raise a DMCA safe harbor defense is that the Ninth Circuit deferred considering the issue at the preliminary injunction stage, and, unfortunately, Napster did not stay in business to see a trial.  A&M Records v. Napster, 239 F.3d 1004, 1025 (9th Cir. 2001).  Even if Napster had survived to have its defense heard by a court, it’s not clear that Napster in fact had a sufficient “notice and take down” policy in place. 

As for YouTube, this additional safe harbor for search provides another basis of immunity for YouTube’s location tools.  The safe harbor may be even stronger than described in Slate.

Some Comedy Central clips pulled from YouTube?

October 29, 2006

NewsNews Cloud reported and then Slashdot re-reported that Comedy Central apparently sent notice to YouTube asking it to take down some (if not all) clips of its shows from YouTube. Slashdot then reported that YouTube removed all copyrighted clips from YouTube.

If this were true, it would mark an about-face from last year when Jon Stewart and the Executive Producer from his show Ben Karlin basically expressed approval or acceptance of the online circulation of their show in a Wired interview

Analysis:  I had to rewrite this post because, as far as I can tell, there are many clips of Colbert, Daily Show, and South Park on YouTube.  There is one clip from the writer of NewsCloud that was removed (see here).  But I haven’t been able to identify any others.

I don’t know what to make of the situation.  If Comedy Central did ask for a total purge of all clips on YouTube, the clips probably wouldn’t still be up there.  And I would be a little bit surprised by such a request, since Stewart and Colbert seemed to be generating a lot of buzz through unauthorized clips finding their way on YouTube — without protest and even mild acceptance by Comedy Central.  True, Comedy Central might have an economic interest in removing all clips until it can get a big fat license from YouTube, post-Google deal, or otherwise it can depend on pushing sales and promotion of the Comedy Central shows on iTunes or CC’s own website.

Video of the week: Is this the future of the Internet?

October 27, 2006

Siva Vaidhyanathan: What we might lose from YouTube to GooTube

October 26, 2006

News:  New York University Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan writes this probing article discussing what might be the fallout from Google’s acquisition of YouTube.  He writes:

“I suspect that we will look back on the heady days of anything-goes-user-generated content with much nostalgia. That does not mean that YouTube will change radically over night. Nor does it mean that YouTube will cease to be the major site of user-posted-and-created video clips. It just is unlikely to be quite as noisy and silly.

“It’s not that YouTube now must behave like a grown up company. It’s more that YouTube is becoming the central battlefield in the next great struggle to define the terms and norms of digital communication. So it’s retrenching in preparation for that battle.

“And every week that ‘GooTube’ grows in cultural and political importance, the more stories we hear of important video clips coming down.”

Analysis:  In the interest of full disclosure, I know Siva and always find his writing to be filled with nice insights.  The same holds true here.  For starters, Siva is quite careful in not exaggerating the extent to which YouTube has changed, post Google-deal — unlike a lot of other more sensationalistic articles out there.  Also, I agree that YouTube is a key battleground “in the next great struggle to define the terms and norms of digital communications.”  That’s 100% right, in my view.

I do disagree, though, with Siva’s suggestion that YouTube should not have removed a copyrighted news clip that discussed Rep. Heather Wilson and her possible coverup of the file of her husband in an alleged sexual abuse of a minor.  The copyrighted clip was posted without authorization of the news station that created it, and, after the news station complained, YouTube apparently removed it.  Siva argues that the use of the news clip was an open-and-shut case of fair use.  I wish the law of fair use were so clear, but, quite frankly, it’s not.  In fact, some case law points against a fair use, although in that case there was a clear commercial use of the video clip.  See L.A. News Service v. Reuters Television, 149 F.3d 987 (9th Cir. 1998).

But I do agree with most of Siva’s discussion of YouTube’s taking down of Michelle Malkin’s conservative video (before the Google deal, discussed here).  It’s good that YouTube allows users to “flag” “inappropriate” content, but, as Siva identifies, the system has its flaws:   “That means that a virtual community enforces community standards. However, YouTube has no mechanism to debate and work through what those standards should be.”  YouTube has said it’s trying to improve the clarity of the standards.

There’s a lot more that Siva says than I can do justice to.  So go read the article.  He says it better than I could when he concludes:  “So here is my great hope for the Google-YouTube deal: I hope that Google’s boldness and tolerance immediately changes the culture of YouTube. I hope that the YouTube editors grow more confident and less fearful about what they can contribute to the culture of the Web. Meanwhile, it’s up to us to pressure YouTube and Google to keep the Web crazy, fun, and even a little scary.”

United Talent Agency to troll YouTube for talent — good luck!

October 26, 2006

NewsNYT reports that United Talent Agency out in Hollywood has created an online unit whose task is to troll YouTube and other sites for unknown talent.  Employees in the division will get paid, in other words, to watch YouTube videos all day.  The article reports:

“United Talent’s online division, whose initial staff is three 26-year-old agents promoted from assistant, will operate independently from the main agency, said Jeremy Zimmer, a founder and director of the company. Defying industry conventions, agents will welcome unsolicited submissions (preferably as Web links), show existing clients’ output on a new agency Web site and be free to sign clients without the approval of the more-established departments.”

Analysis:  I’m all in favor of discovering unknown talent through the Internet.  But have you watched some of the videos on YouTube?  Needle in a haystack.

Truthiness report: YouTube has not turned evil

October 26, 2006

News:  Countering some of the recent anti-You Tube press reports, Charles Arthur of The Guardian restores some truth in reporting:  “The truth? YouTube hasn’t changed at all, only people’s perceptions or expectations of it. The company states in its user agreement that uploading copyrighted material is illegal, and a similar warning appears before you upload a clip. But of course, fewer than 1% of its users upload anything. No wonder they don’t know. ”

Analysis:  One thing I’ve learned over the past month in reading dozens and dozens of news articles about YouTube:  there’s a lot of questionable, if not downright bad, “journalism” out there.  Legal issues are often reported with a very thin understanding of the law, while a good number of articles tend to accentuate whatever can generate readers — that typically means something bad or dramatic.  I hate to sound like some radical or curmudgeon, but it’s sometimes hard to find good journalism in the media.  That’s why I think this whole blogging phenomenon has taken hold.

Trying to create buzz: Yahoo!’s talent show

October 24, 2006

News:  In Yahoo! talent show is a sign of desperation, Mashable blog reports about Yahoo!’s video talent show, the winner of which gets $50,000 and a show on Yahoo video.  Mashable writes: “This is pretty much typical of Yahoo’s backward strategy. First off, a contest is no way to build long term value – it gets a little press buzz, but you can’t deny that Google is going to come out ahead here. But more annoying is the way they launched it: with a ‘pretty’ professional presenter in a studio reading some lines. That’s typical of Yahoo’s patronizing way of believing that professional content will win the day.”

Analysis:  I don’t see this contest as negatively as Mashable blog.  Not sure why it’s “patronizing” for Yahoo! to hire a professional ad team to prepare the Intro ad for the talent show.  YouTube did the same thing for its Underground rock band talent show, and Mashable seems pretty keen on YouTube.  Both contests aim to “discover” and reward some unknown talent.  There is nothing patronizing about that, to me.  After all, isn’t that a part of the American dream?

Mashable may be right that there could be some desperation to Yahoo!’s contest, given its fierce competition with darling Google and last earnings report.  But Yahoo’s gotta do something to revive its business and generate some positive momentum.  Staying competitive in online video has to be one of Yahoo!’s top priorities.

YouTube complied with subpoena to identify copyright infringer — so what?

October 23, 2006

News:  Ever since the Google-YouTube deal, a number of media have written critical articles of YouTube, suggesting that it may be turning off users.   In MarketWatch, Ben Charney seems to suggest something sinister in his article “YouTube shared user data with studio lawyers.”  The article prompted Computerworld to write a blog post entitled “Has YouTube gone over to the dark side?”

Analysis:  This kind of sensationalistic reporting is way offbase.  The May 2006 incident which Charney describes involved a court subpoena requiring YouTube to reveal the identity of an alleged copyright infringer.  Under Section 512(h) of the Copyright Act, YouTube was required to comply with the court’s subpoena. 

Although Charney got some lawyer to say that “YouTube seems to have given up too quickly,” that statement appears to be sheer nonsense.  I haven’t seen the subpoena, but the description of it (targeted at one person) makes it hard to imagine any grounds for objection.  Section 512(h) of the Copyright Act was set up precisely for this purpose.  Here, in fact, the guy who was the target of the subpoena later admitted to copyright infringement and settled.

UPDATE:  Thankfully, someone else in the press who knows some copyright law has agreed with me and refuted MarketWatch’s exaggerated story.  Nate Anderson of ArsTechnica writes YouTube names names: why is anyone surprised?

The social phenomenon of YouTube — is there room for Diddy?

October 23, 2006

News:  LA Times has an excellent article, YouTube users keep dialogue running, discussing the social networking aspect of YouTube’s popularity:  “What’s so unique about YouTube is that most of the content on the site is this conversation between people,” said Fred Stutzman, a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who has studied social networks. “The interesting thing is that the conversations are happening in videos.”

Analysis:  So have you ever wondered why millions of people would watch home-made videos of random people often doing silly things, or even nothing?  I mean, how many times have you ever watched the holiday or baby videos you created of your own family?  Probably not many, if at all. 

I’m sure there will be many academics who study this social networking phenomenon.  The LA Times does a good job introducing us to the topic.  I also liked the Times’ revelation that YouTube cofounders’ giddy video of the “two kings” coming together — the king of search (Google) and the king of video (YouTube) — was a parody of a Diddy commercial for Burger King:  “When two kings get together, you know they gotta do it in a special way,” Diddy said, inspiring dozens of mocking videos in response from YouTube members who thought the rapper was invading their turf.

Yale student Aleksey Vayner speaks to Times about video

October 21, 2006

News:  On the front page of its business section today, NYT has a lengthy article entitled “A Student’s Video Resume Gets Attention (Some of it Unwanted).”  Somewhat curiously, the article in a less sympathetic version is also entitled, more derisively, “The Resume Mocked ‘Round the World” on NYT’s website. 

The article is about Yale student Aleksey Vayner.  Vayner became (in)famous after a 7-minute video of himself he created and sent to investment banks got posted onto YouTube by The IvyGate blog.  The video was a bit much in terms of self-promotion, featuring Vayner purportedly bench pressing 425 pounds, serving 140 mph tennis serves (that’s Andy Roddick territory), and breaking a stack of bricks with his hand.  (The Utube Blog summarized the twisted course of events here).

After the video went “negative viral,” turning Vayner into almost the butt of derision, the Times reveals that Vayner went into seclusion, taking a leave of absence from Yale.

Analysis:  This is a very disappointing article.  Today’s sympathetic rewrite of the original NYT blog post avoids delving into some of the key aspects of the controversy, such as:

1.  Copyright issues:  The fact that YouTube took down the Vayner video after he complained about copyright infringement (which, to me, may be a potentially meritorious claim if some site continues to post the video without authorization), but the IvyGate blog then put up the video on its site and now the video appears to have resurfaced even on YouTube.

2.  Fraud and fabrication issues:  IvyGate blog has made many accusations that Vayner’s resume contains material misrepresentations and that some of his writings he plagiarized.  The Times article mentions this controversy briefly, but largely leaves it as the elephant in the room.

3.  IvyGate blog’s role:  I am very surprised the Times does not even mention the source of most of the blogging venom and accusations against Vayner — the IvyGate blog.  Isn’t that one of most important facts of the entire controversy?

Japan’s music copyright holders demand YouTube to take down 30,000 files

October 20, 2006

News:  The Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (JSRAC) — Japan’s version of our ASCAP — sent a notice to YouTube identifying close to 30,000 files on YouTube that were allegedly infringing the music copyrights of JSRAC’s members.  Upon receiving the notice, YouTube took down all the files.  (More here)

Analysis:  This is precisely the kind of process the DMCA safe harbor provision (Section 512) envisions.  Frankly, this incident bolsters YouTube’s claim to falling within the safe harbor by demonstrating its prompt removal of files upon receipt of notice.

What Mark Cuban doesn’t get, Part 2: music studios buy into YouTube

October 20, 2006

News: NYT’s writers Andrew Sorkin and Jeff Leeds have detailed more information about the 3 majors deals YouTube struck with the recording studios Universal, Sony BMG, and Warner Music on the same day as the Google deal.  In exchange for allowing their music to be used by YouTube users, the recording studios each received a small stake in YouTube.  According to the NYT reporters, “Indeed, people involved in the discussions said that the music companies rushed to complete the deal ahead of the YouTube deal, in part so that it could benefit in the jump in YouTube’s value.”

Analysis:  I don’t want to sound like a broken record (pun intended), but Mark Cuban’s prediction that YouTube will suffer the same copyright demise as Napster has proven to be wrong, again and again.  When 3 of the 4 major recording studios have bought a stake in YouTube, that’s a powerful sign of how those music copyright holders view the legitimate business potential of YouTube. 

Related post

Business + Web 2.0: What Mark Cuban doesn’t get

Universal Music agrees to deal with YouTube, ending threat of copyright lawsuit

The videos that put YouTube on the map

October 19, 2006

News:  Today, Slate’s Paul Boutin has a nice list of the buzz-making videos that put YouTube on the map.  The list is on NPR’s website, with convenient links to the YouTube clips.  Here are Boutin’s picks:

Jon Stewart on Crossfire
‘Lazy Sunday’ from ‘Saturday Night Live’
Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner
Judson Laipply’s Evolution of Dance
A Message from Chad and Steve

YouTube, faster growing than MySpace?

October 19, 2006

News:  ZDNet reports an interesting study by Jay Meattle comparing the growth of MySpace and YouTube in their first 16 months (the companies started at different times).  Turns out that YouTube’s growth, in terms of users, has been way faster than MySpace’s was.  (Meattle’s study is here.)  MySpace is 3 years older than YouTube, though, and MySpace has a sizeable lead in terms of the number of visitors currently, according to Meattle.

Analysis:  It will be interesting to see if YouTube can sustain its exponential growth.  I looked on Alexa and it has MySpace at No.6 and YouTube at No.9.  I’m not sure YouTube will overtake MySpace.  MySpace is a much different site — more about people creating their own social pages — that has a lot of attraction for all kinds of people, especially young teenagers.  The video file sharing space probably has a more limited audience, at least right now.

CBS: clip of “NCIS catfight”

October 18, 2006

News:  Just when I criticized U.S. shows for being slow to freely disseminate their clips online like they do in Korea, CBS has launched its channel on YouTube with short clips from a select number of CBS shows, including Letterman.  (More here)  Here’s one of the clips launched by CBS under the provocative, if not desperate, title, “NCIS catfight.”

Satellite TV

More on YouTube company history

October 18, 2006

News:  Here are a couple good articles detailing some of the less publicized history of YouTube, including its initial attraction of viewers through an iPod give-away and the deep connections to PayPal.

Kristin Edelhauser, msnbc, Watching YouTube

Miguel Helft, NYT, It Pays to Have Pals in Silicon Valley

YouTube is now a verb and an adjective

October 18, 2006

News:  Wall Street Journal writer Lee Gomes has an excellent article discussing how “YouTube is now a verb and an adjective“–great title!

For those still questioning the YouTube-Google deal, this is a must read.  One key point:  “Instead, Google is getting an awesome brand name, and the eyeballs that come with it. It’s one of the ironies of the current Internet that success is often uncorrelated with a company’s R&D budget or the number of programmers on its staff. As proven with social networking sites such as MySpace, what makes for success is often being in the right place at exactly the time that a particular fad breaks your way.”

Analysis: The grammatical discussion of “YouTube” as a verb and an adjective provides nice symbolism of how pervasive YouTube has seeped into everyday culture.  Gomes is exactly right that a bunch of other sites do exactly what YouTube does, but without YouTube’s success in attracting users.  Being the First Mover in a space is always an advantage, particularly if you do it well. 

Gomes also makes a good point in questioning why major copyright holders are failing to capitalize on the video craze right now.  In my last post, I discussed how South Korean shows freely disseminate clips of their programs on the Internet.  Why aren’t NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox exploring that marketing strategy more aggressively?

The online video revolution in Korea

October 18, 2006

News:  GigaOm has an excellent post today examining the advanced state of broadband and video file sharing in South Korea.  Google’s planning on investing $10 million in R&D in Korea.  Here’s the most impressive part:

“For years, Korean television viewers have been able to watch their favorite shows online. The shows are offered not by a third party like the Apple iTunes Store or Google Video, but by the TV companies themselves, who provide complete archives of their shows that can be downloaded or streamed, either for free or for pennies.

“In Korea, online video is not an experiment—it is a success. It is a daily reality for most Koreans, not just for the young crowd or the techie set. The entire society has lived the broadband lifestyle for a while now, and is more attuned to its potential.”

Analysis:  Putting free copyrighted shows online probably is heretical in the U.S., given the current practices of major copyright holders in the U.S.  While chatting with a friend, I once suggested that owners of really old copyrighted shows that are never played any more should put them online for free, or with some modest deal with a site like YouTube.  What Korean copyright holders are already doing with recently copyrighted shows is pretty amazing.

Copyright lawsuit: Universal sues Grouper + Bolt

October 18, 2006

News:  Universal Music filed a copyright lawsuit in the Central District of California against video sharing sites Grouper and Bolt.  Grouper has been acquired by Sony Pictures Entertainment, while Bolt is a private company.  As Reuters reported, “According to online audience measurement firm comScore, had 8.1 million unique visitors in August while Grouper had just 1.8 million visitors. YouTube had 72.1 million visitors in the same month.”

On its site, Bolt announced:  “We have been notified today that Universal Music has filed a lawsuit against Bolt because our members upload videos which may contain their musicians’ copyrighted videos. We understand the love you have for your favorite musical artists, but Bolt respects the rights of copyright owners such as Universal Music and their artists, and we ask that you please do so as well by not uploading their videos to Bolt. You can still watch your favorite music videos by visiting your favorite bands websites. Bear with us – we hope to sort this out soon!”

Analysis:  Universal struck a deal with YouTube on the day it was acquired with Google.  Now, Universal is going after two smaller fries in the video file sharing world.  Both Bolt and Grouper have DMCA notice-and-take down policies (see here and here).  It will be interesting to see if the case gets to trial, or the parties decide to settle. 

Business + Web 2.0: What Mark Cuban doesn’t get

October 16, 2006

News:  Over the weekend, a couple articles came out explaining favorably why the Google-YouTube deal makes sense, and why we’re unlikely to see YouTube suffer the same copyright demise as Napster.  Here are some of the highlights:

1.  The Sunday Times (UK), Google helps media giants see YouTube’s way

Some senior media executives argue that these are signs that lessons have been learnt since the Napster debacle. The free song-swapping website was crushed by legal action by the music industry, but this failed to stop enormous web piracy.

“If we had licensed Napster we could have saved ourselves billions and got a real head start in digital music,” one music executive said. “But as usual the lawyers had the loudest voices.”  If there is money to be made, media companies are happy to share content as long as they get their slice. “It is innovation over litigation,” said Michael Nash, senior vice-president for digital strategy at Warner.

2.  Michael Geist, Toronto Star, Why YouTube won’t be Napster redux

Lost amid discussion of YouTube’s staggering price tag was the fact that hours before confirming the sale, Google and YouTube signed a series of licensing agreements with some of their harshest critics. Companies such as Universal, who only weeks earlier had mused publicly about suing YouTube, agreed to the very revenue sharing arrangements that eluded Napster.

While some media companies, including Time Warner, speculated publicly late last week about possible lawsuits, it is worth examining why YouTube appears to be succeeding where Napster failed. At least three possibilities come to mind. * * * The best explanation may well be that seven years after Napster’s debut, the world views the value of Internet-based distribution through a much different lens.

In 1999, Internet distribution focused on the use of law and technology to control content and dictate terms of use. That control has proven notoriously elusive with consumer backlash against technological and legal controls and emergence of highly efficient user-based distribution models.

Furthermore, it is Internet advertising revenues — not Internet controls — that today hold the promise of billions of dollars in revenue. Indeed, the Internet economics of 2006 have shifted so dramatically that later this fall the recording industry is planning to launch SpiralFrog, an ad-supported music download service that offers free music downloads (albeit with restrictive technological limitations).

3.  David Carr, New York Times, Idiosyncratic and Personal, PC Edges TV

One of the panelists, Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC, was asked what he would do if he found out that YouTube had run a piece of copyrighted NBC material. “We will claim outrage, demand that it be taken down and then check back in a week to make sure it has been done,” he said. His sly-devil acquiescence is informed by YouTube’s ability to take a Saturday Night Live skit called “Lazy Sunday” last year and market it to more young people than have sampled S.N.L. in years. * * * Television, it seems, may have learned some of the hard lessons endured by the music industry and taken an attitude of cautious engagement with downloaders rather than randomly slapping them with lawsuits.

Analysis:  I’ve always thought winning the Napster litigation was a Pyrrhic victory for the music industry.  By closing the first and most popular music file sharing site, which boasted over 70 million users and a substantial lead time over competitors, the music industry very likely made it more difficult to stop infringement by scattering all those users to many different services and software platforms.  I’m glad to see now that one music executive has finally admitted as much. 

Granted, it’s a matter of speculation whether Napter and the music industry could have struck a deal to work together back in 1999.  But I submit as evidence the fact that Napster was later reborn, with the blessing of the music industry.  By then, though, Apple and iTunes had become the No.1 online commercial site for music.

YouTube: Who’s a moron now Mark Cuban?

October 16, 2006

News: YouTube has blogged (here) some thank yous and reassurances to its users that it won’t be abandoning them after the acquisition by Google.   Maryrose from YouTube wrote:

“I was trying to think what I should title this blog entry…’GooTube’, ‘YouTube is here to stay’, ‘Who’s a moron now Mark Cuban’ all came to mind, but I settled on the only thing I really can say – thank you. YouTube would not exist and be where it is today without the YouTube community. We owe everything to you guys and we will never, ever forget that.”

Analysis:  The last title is a little more catchy.

Stephen Colbert jokes about royalties YouTube owes him

October 15, 2006

Stephen Colbert was elated upon hearing the news of Google’s acquisition of YouTube.  This video is hilarious!

The founding of YouTube

October 15, 2006

News:  The Chicago Tribune’s David Greising has an excellent recounting of YouTube, starting with its founding.  The story is already well known:  the three founders were searching for a way to share video taken at a party of fellow Pay Pal employees.  The Utube Blog discussed it here.  But the Tribune article is well worth reading:

“In February 2005, Chen hosted the dinner party that would change his life and also make Internet history.  Chen and his friends spent much of the party shooting videos and digital photos of each other. They easily uploaded the photos to the Web. But the videos? Not a chance.

“Chen, Hurley and Karim had stumbled across a crying need. And between them, they had the means to address it. Chen and Karim were exceptional code writers, and Hurley’s gift for design could give a new Web site a compelling look.

“Hurley, who had left PayPal, turned over his Menlo Park garage to Chen and Karim, who worked there during breaks from their PayPal jobs. By May, they had solved a vexing problem: How to let computer users view videos from their Web browsers without downloading special software.

“In the first YouTube video, an 18-second clip posted April 23, 2005, Karim stood before elephants at a zoo. ‘The cool thing about these guys is that they have really, really, really long trunks,’ Karim says. ‘And that’s cool. And that’s pretty much all.’

“With that breakthrough, YouTube was born.”

First YouTube video

At which Denny’s did YouTube-Google meet?–question finally answered

October 15, 2006

News:  I’ve received several commenters asking for more information about the Denny’s where the historic meeting between YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steven Chen and Google founder Larry Page and CEO Eric Schmidt.  Based on a NYT article today, I’ve finally figured out it was the Denny’s on Broadway in Redwood City (map here). 

Analysis:  Somewhat ironically, I used to live down the street from this Denny’s!  And I can tell you that I’ve eaten there several times and never once saw any business-type ever in that restaurant.  The manager was not lying when he told NYT, “We generally get families here, lots of families, husbands and wives and their kids.”  But the location does make sense in at least one way, it’s sort of halfway between YouTube in San Bruno and Google in Redwood City, and conveniently located right off of 101.

Related posts

Google-YouTube deal struck at Denny’s

More about YouTube-Google deal at Denny’s

20/20 on viral videos: how consumers can get their complaints heard

October 14, 2006

News:  ABC’s John Stossel had an excellent report on 20/20 last night, discussing how home made videos posted on the Internet have greatly enhanced the ability of ordinary consumers to have their complaints heard.  Instead of getting ignored or frustrated with poor customer service at some company, consumers now can air their complaints through video.  And, sometimes, it works, when a video strikes a chord with millions of Internet users.  Just ask Comcast, AOL, HP, and even Apple!

Stossel was also careful to point out that some complaint videos may be totally off-base, made by some consumers who really have no legitimate complaint. 

Analysis:  We have already seen the power of these Internet videos in the political campaigns of 2006.  The consumer side empowerment discussed in the 20/20 report is another positive development from this emerging technology.  Any technology that gives more power to the people is a good thing, in my book.

Here are some of the videos discussed in the 20/20 report.  Apparently, all of the consumers who received less than satisfactory help in these videos eventually received a happy resolution to their problem.

Video 1: Comcast technician falls asleep waiting on hold with Comcast

Video 2: AOL customer service makes it difficult to cancel one’s account

Audio here.   NBC interview with video here.

Video 3: Apple customer service saying Apple doesn’t replace iPod batteries; go buy another iPod

Video here.

Video 4:  HP tells soldier in Iraq he needs to pay to have HP tell him how to fix printer

IvyGate blog versus Yale student Aleksey Vayner

October 13, 2006

News:  Amid the hoopla over the YouTube-Google deal this week, another story has caught the interest of some in the blogging community, Yale Daily News, and, now, even tabloids in the UK. 

Apparently, a Yale student named Aleksey Vayner (’07) sent out a 7-minute video of himself to prospective employers, basically, to sell himself.  The video shows Vayner weight lifting, playing tennis, and dancing — all of which he appears to do well — while he gives a voice-over monologue touting his views on how to succeed. 

Later, someone — Vayner alleges someone from IvyGate blog, which “covers news, gossip, sex, sports and more at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale” — posted a copy of the video on YouTube.  YouTube took it down after receiving a complaint from Vayner based on copyright infringement.  But IvyGate blog continues to show the video on its site here and on veoh.  Vayner sent a “cease and desist” letter by email to IvyGate blog, alleging that the blog had infringed his copyright and had also violated his right to privacy by disclosing certain private facts.

IvyGate blog then sought free legal advice from Student Press Law Center and based on that advice concluded that it had a valid fair use defense to show the video (more here).   Meanwhile, IvyGate blog has detailed at length here what it claims are complete misrepresentations and lies by Vayner on his resume.

Analysis:  Where to begin?  First, thanks to these Ivy League college students for providing this good fodder for Friday the 13th.  Let me just say I watched the video.  Although it’s self-indulgent, I did not think it was as bad as I had heard it was (the guy certainly could beat me at tennis, lift way more than I could, and probably outdance me, I hate to admit).  If I were an employer I would laugh at the video and pitch it in the waste basket, but I wouldn’t waste my time thinking about it.  Kids, today.

Then there’s Vayner’s allegation that IvyGate has infringed his copyright and IvyGate’s defense of fair use.  Based on the information reported on IvyGate’s blog and the press articles, I think there’s probably little doubt that Vayner has a copyright in his video.  At to IvyGate’s fair use defense, fair use is judged on a case-by-case, balancing a set of factors, so you can never be too confident how a court will decide.  I don’t know all the facts, but based on what I’ve heard, I wouldn’t necessarily call this one a strong fair use argument.  IvyGate’s theory probably is a journalistic/news reporting type of use.  But you don’t have to show the entire video to report news from it (Just think about the notorious Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape, which was copyrighted).  And, although IvyGate has allegedly exposed a lot of lies in Vayner’s resume, none of them appears to be contained in the video (although further revelations seem possible, given the number of alleged lies already uncovered).

Another issue I’d want to know is whether Vayner somehow consented to further public distributions while sending his video to prospective employers.  In his letter to IvyGate, he does assert that he reserved all rights.

So this is what life at an Ivy League college today is like?  In the end, it was probably good for YouTube to get out of the fray.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer questions (or covets?) YouTube deal

October 12, 2006

News:  BusinessWeek has an interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and the hot topic of discussion is, what else, the YouTube-Google deal.  Ballmer states:

“You’ve got to ask] could Google do whatever it is they’re hoping to buy without paying $1.6 billion? Is YouTube really some permanent, long-term thing, or is it a fashion?  I’m not saying it is a fashion.  But every time we do valuations, I wonder if we can keep this hot for 10 years. . . . Right now, there’s no business model for YouTube that would justify $1.6 billion.  And what about the rights holders? At the end of the day, a lot of the content that’s up there is owned by somebody else.

“The truth is what Google is doing now is transferring the wealth out of the hands of rights holders into Google. So media companies around the world are all threatened by Google. Why? Because basically Google is telling you how much of your ad revenue you get to keep. They better get some competition. Us. Yahoo! Somebody better break through or you can short all media stocks right now. As long as there are two, you can hold onto media stocks. Google understands that. And that’s one reason why they’re willing to lose money up front.”

Analysis:  It’s interesting to hear Microsoft worrying now about monopolies.  It’s also eye-opening to see Microsoft trying to play catch-up in a number of areas, including search, music distribution, and now video distribution.  On the very day the YouTube deal was announced, Microsoft sent out invitations to try out the beta version of its video sharing site, Soapbox.  Initial reviews have been underwhelmed.  I tried out the site and really found the design to be a disappointment, not only in the aesthetics but also in the placement of the video player on the right hand side and not the center. 

I’m not a business expert, but I believe Ballmer is wrong to be worried about 10 years into the future.  In Internet time, 10 years is an eternity.  Companies working in this space should be thinking the here and now, what will innovate today.  Why it’s taking Microsoft so long to fully launch a video site is a bit confounding.  When you let others take a sizeable lead, sometimes you won’t ever be able to catch up.