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.