Wired on YouTube

November 30, 2006

News: Wired’s December issue is on the newstands and it features YouTube on the cover, with a picture of Lonelygirl15. There are 2 excellent articles, (1) one about the YouTube phenomenon and (2) the other about Lonelygirl15. Wired’s website even has a video of the photo shoot with Lonelygirl15 (actress Jessica Rose).


Analysis:  Both articles are great reads.  I recommend both if you follow YouTube.  One thing I still don’t understand:  what exactly was or is the fascination with the Lonelygirl15 character??  I’ve surfed through some of the many Lonelygirl15 videos and yawned.

Disney exec complains about copyright infringement on YouTube

November 30, 2006

News: Disney exec Anne Sweeney said that YouTube needs to do more about copyright infringement. She found the current approach of having to complain to YouTube to take down infringing clips “inefficient,” but did not suggest that Disney would sue YouTube. (More from Reuters)

U2 on YouTube: Vertigo

November 29, 2006

Snakes on a plane? YouTube on cellphones?

November 28, 2006

News:  Verizon and YouTube announced a new deal to stream YouTube videos on Verizon cellphones for $15/month.  The service, called “VCast,” will offer only a limited, pre-selected number of videos approved by Verizon for content.  A YouTube spokeswoman said, “We’ll select content that has the broadest appeal and the highest entertainment value.” (more from NYT)

Analysis:  $15 sounds like a really high price tag to me (in addition to high cost of phone service).  I haven’t bought a new cellphone recently, but if the quality of streaming images is not that great, I wonder how many consumers will sign up.  On the other hand, as cellphones incorporate greater visual capability, the streaming of videos on cellphones seems to be a natural complement to the growing phenomenon of people recording videos on cellphones (as in the UCLA taser incident).  

German Chancellor vlogs on YouTube

November 27, 2006

News:  Wired critiques the videos of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which are available on the German government site and, of course, on YouTube.  Wired reports:

“I don’t know who can take these seriously,” says Ivo Smolak, aka Ivo Lotion, a video artist and underground comedian whose spoofs of Merkel’s speeches have become a hit on YouTube. “I like her, but her body language is unintentionally so funny it’s just asking for satire. Maybe she just needs more time in front of the camera.” * * *

“Thursdays or Fridays, Merkel meets with a production crew and shoots for about 15 minutes somewhere in the German executive office building, sometimes using handheld cameras. Topics in the last few weeks have ranged from a heartfelt reaction to the kidnapping and murder of a 2-year-old child last month to snoozers on the “German-Polish relationship” and economic growth.”

Analysis:  Unbelievable, the head of a country youtubing!  I wish I understood German.

Will YouTube replace TV?

November 27, 2006

News:  BBC has a survey of people in Britain who watch online videos.  46% of online viewers say they watch less TV (including 20% who say they watch a lot less TV).  However, online viewers only make up 9% of the British population (although it’s 28% among 16 to 24 year olds), and 54% of online viewers say they still watch the same amount of TV.

Analysis:  The key stat to me is the number of 16 to 24 year olds who watch online videos, 28%.  Advertisers covet the attention of that segment of the population, so one should hardly doubt that there’s a business to be made in online videos.

Is the world of “YouTube surveillance” going too far?

November 27, 2006

News:  The NYT reports an incident involving a high school student in Ottawa who provoked her teacher to get mad, so that another student could tape it and post it on YouTube.  The school got wind of the video and asked YouTube to remove it.  YouTube complied.  According to NYT, the teacher “is a 33-year veteran who specialized in teaching students with learning disabilities. The teacher is now on voluntary sick leave, and officials at his union say that he is so embarrassed that he may never return to class.” 

Analysis:  At least from the description in the article, I think the students were wrong for what they did, especially if they wanted their teacher to get mad so they could catch it on tape.  The article suggests that the teacher was a good teacher and supported by students.  Our lives will be drastically different if everything outside of our homes can be taped on video and posted on YouTube.  Although it’s true that video can catch inappropriate behavior and comments by politicians, police officers, and washed-up actors, there’s also a negative element to making everything fair game to video.   

UPDATE:  Michael Geist, a law professor in Canada, has a thoughtful article on the issuse.  In it, he writes:  “While there are some obvious benefits that arise from the transparency and potential accountability that can come from video evidence of controversial events, the emergence of an always-on video society raises some difficult questions about the appropriate privacy-transparency balance, the ethics of posting private moments to a global audience, and the responsibility of websites that facilitate Internet video distribution.”

LA Times op-ed comparing YouTube + MySpace to Napster

November 27, 2006

News:  LA Times editorial writer Jon Haley has an op-ed piece on Sunday, comparing and contrasting YouTube and MySpace to Napster.  Although Haley suggests that YouTube and MySpace are different from Napster because they are websites and have deeper pockets, they could end up like Napster:  “The best result would be for Universal and its entertainment brethren to work out a way with MySpace and YouTube to turn people’s enthusiasm for posting songs and clips into a robust revenue stream — assuming that the sites can gin up enough money to make everybody happy. In another parallel with the original Napster, MySpace and YouTube haven’t found a way yet to generate much revenue from advertisers or users. And the longer that remains true, the greater the chance that the companies will meet the same fate.”

Analysis:  It’s now banal to compare YouTube to Napster.  Mark Cuban did it last month, and I’ve offered all my reasons why I believe he was wrong in all these posts here.  So far, I have to say that my position has proven more accurate, given YouTube’s continued, growing business. 

I think LA Times writer Jon Haley is barking up the wrong tree when he says that YouTube and MySpace may be different from Napster because they are websites (as if Napster wasn’t) and they have deep pockets.  Napster was a website, too; it invoked the DMCA safe harbor as well but was shut down before it even had a chance to take that defense to trial (although it’s not clear it had a DMCA policy in place, anyways).  Also, the fact that YouTube and MySpace have deep (parent) pockets could make it more attractive, not less so, for copyright lawsuits. 

What Haley is missing (and Cuban as well) is that a growing segment of big corporate America — Cingular, CBS, NBC, Warner Music, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG — sees YouTube as a legitimate business, and a business that can also serve their interests.  That’s a key difference betwen Napster and YouTube.  YouTube is changing the way corporate copyright holders think about enforcing their copyrights.  Here’s what CBS exec David Poltrack stated last week, “When you have something the public really wants, the economic value in that is to come up with a way to satisfy the rights holders and serve the consumers. . .  If they’re [consumers] going to steal it, give it to them anyway.” 

Of course, I don’t want to overstate the change in the view of copyright holders, or understate the risk of copyright liability that YouTube or MySpace faces.  Copyrights still exist, and sometimes (but not always) they give rise to lawsuits.  Universal Music is suing MySpace, but not YouTube.  The DMCA provides a potential safe harbor for YouTube and MySpace, but, if litigated, the issue will be contested.  By the same token, businesses and corporate copyright holders probably understand, more today than they did before, that shutting down Napster was a Pyrrhic victory, that propagated infringement across decentralized, harder-to-detect sites.  In the end, the music, movie, and television industries may need a central site like YouTube to prosper just as much as YouTube needs them. 

UPDATE:  Here’s more evidence to support my theory.  Major media corporations are all searching for the “next YouTube.”  No one said that about Napster, at least not in a good way.

U2 hits YouTube

November 24, 2006

News:  What a nice gift to start the holiday season!  Here’s an incredible video of U2 performing “Elevation” live, just posted by U2 on YouTube:

And “With or without You”:

Esmee Denters explains herself

November 24, 2006

I’ve already blogged once about Esmee Denters, the 18-year-old singer from the Netherlands with an amazing, soulful voice. Here’s an endearing video of Esmee explaining a little bit about herself. She seems very sweet — she wants to go into social work to help people and, though feeling awkward about talking about herself on video, made this video to respond to her fan emails. One thing I want to know: Do people really say “ya’ll” in the Netherlands?

Related post

For all of The Utube Blog’s articles about Esmee Denters, visit here

CBS delighted with YouTube results

November 24, 2006

News:  After only a month of posting clips of its own shows on YouTube (such as David Letterman), CBS is quite happy about the results.  CBS clips have been viewed over 29 million times in the last month, including 3 of the Top 25 most watched clips on YouTube.  David Letterman has seen a slight spike in his TV ratings.

Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive, said: “YouTube users are clearly being entertained by CBS programming they’re watching as evidenced by the sheer number of video views. Above all the other good news, what’s most exciting here is the extent to which CBS is learning about its audiences as never before.”  (More from BBC and Brand Republic)

Video of the week: Happy Thanksgiving

November 22, 2006

Is Esmee Denters the next YouTube idol?

November 20, 2006

Imagine this: an 18-year-old girl in the Netherlands sitting in front of her karaoke machine and singing fearlessly into her low quality webcam. Within just two months, she’s posted 37 videos so far that have drawn over 1.5 million views on YouTube. Each video draws tens of thousands of views within the week it’s posted.

Her name is Esmee Denters (“Ez-May”), and she may well be the most talented, undiscovered singer on YouTube today. Her webcam is pretty shoddy, both in the visual and audio, but her voice is soulful and sweet. You can judge for yourself, Esmee’s latest video clip.

(All videos of Esmee Denters are here.)

Related posts

1.  Esmee Denters explains herself

2.  Esmee Denters’ original song, “Figure it out”

Universal Music sues MySpace for copyright infringement

November 20, 2006

News:  On Friday, Universal Music Group sued MySpace, the social networking site, for allegedly encouraging its users to share music and music videos on its site without authorization of the copyright owners.  According to the complaint, MySpace “encourages, facilitates and participates in the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, distribution and public performance.”  (Several weeks ago, Universal reached a licensing deal with YouTube, staving off a suit against YouTube.)  (More from SFGate)

Analysis:  It’s too bad negotiations broke down between the two sides.  I don’t really follow MySpace that closely, so I have no basis to evaluate what “encouragement” MySpace might be giving to its users to use copyrighted music without authorization.  I imagine if YouTube had not struck a deal with Universal, YouTube would have been sued by Universal as well. 

UCLA police taser student — video on YouTube

November 17, 2006

News:  Disturbing report from LA that UCLA campus police tasered a student in the library several times after he failed to show his ID at the library and then allegedly refused to leave the library after 11 p.m.  Apparently, by UCLA policy, non-students cannot use the library after that time, so the campus police were performing a random check.  The individual, however, was a UCLA student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, who reportedly failed to produce an ID upon request and then did not leave as requested.   (More from LA’s local ABC station and the UCLA Daily Bruin)

Apparently, a student caught some of the incident on video and uploaded it onto YouTube.  You can hear (but not see) some of the tasering, followed by a lot of yelling and screaming.  In a statement, Interim Chancellor Norman Abrams said an internal investigation was underway,  “I can assure you that these reviews will be thorough, vigorous and fair.”

Analysis:  This is very disturbing.  I don’t want to jump to any conclusions without knowing more facts (the video itself does not show exactly what happened leading up to the confrontation), but I really doubt that any good policy should allow campus police to resort to tasering an individual who is not presenting a threat of physical harm to others.  (Truthfully, when I first heard the story, I thought it was a hoax because it sounded so incredible that campus police would actually be using tasers.)  Credit to the other UCLA students in the video who were asking the campus police to stop or identify their badge numbers, as well as those students who had the good sense to document the incident on their cellphone cameras.

[UPDATE:  If you are looking for the video of the Florida student tasered at a John Kerry speech on September 17, 2007, go here.]

Video of the Week: You are not alone

November 16, 2006

This is the first time I’ve commented about one of my video of the week selections.  I had to.  This video was the most moving, most amazing video I’ve seen.  Since I started this blog, I’ve probably surfed through several hundred clips.  None has moved me in the same way this clip did.  None even came close.  “Randomsign” (from Armenia) created this mash up video from the YouTube videos of other people who appear to be fighting depression.  The voices you hear (including the main narrator’s) are the voices of real people on YouTube talking about depression or struggles in their lives.  The images are of real people struggling with something difficult in their lives.  The message is simple, but powerful, and the entire video is so artfully constructed and edited. 

A Harvard Medical School study in 2003 estimated that 13 to 14 million Americans suffer from some bout of major depression each year.  33 to 35 million Americans will suffer major depression in their lifetime.  The major depression typically debilitates a person for over a month, if not longer.  If you know someone who is depressed, be there for that person, help them get help, and make them realize that they are not alone.  If you are that person, realize you are not alone.

Please watch this video and share it with friends.  If you are like me, you probably didn’t realize that there’s more to YouTube than entertainment.  There’s hope. 

Cease and desist, did YouTube just turn to the dark side?

November 16, 2006

News:  Maybe the ride is over.  Lawyers from the Wilson, Sonsini law firm representing YouTube just sent the blog Tech Crunch a “cease and desist” letter for disseminating a program that enables people to download YouTube videos onto their computers.  The letter is available on TechCrunch’s site

According to YouTube’s lawyers, TechCrunch’s dissemination of the download tool enables people to copy the copyrighted videos on YouTube without authorization, thus inducing copyright infringement.  The letter also claims that YouTube is causing YouTube users to violate their Terms of Service, which allegedly is tortious interference with a business relationship and an unfair business practice under California law.  The Wilson, Sonsini lawyer even alleges that the Tech Crunch blog is engaging in “false advertising” by using the term “YouTube Video Downloader Tool.”

Analysis:  OK, I’m a regular reader of the Tech Crunch blog, so I’ll try not to be biased.  If you’ve read my blog before, you know I generally love what YouTube has done so far.  But not here.

First, the threatening tone of YouTube’s “cease and desist” letter is a little bit offputting.  The Tech Crunch blog points out the “irony” — read hypocrisy — of YouTube accusing others of inducing copyright infringement.  On his blog, Larry Lessig suggests a better word might be chutzpah.  Although this letter is pretty standard for cease and desists, I thought YouTube might be able to “work things out” informally just the way I have been arguing that the music and movie industries should with YouTube.  To be fair to YouTube’s attorney, though, she did leave two voice mails with Tech Crunch (that Tech Crunch had not yet listened to) before sending the letter. 

Second, although there’s a laundry list of legal claims (copyright, tort, trademark) invoked in YouTube “cease and desist” letter, what this dispute really seems to be about is the ability of YouTube to adopt a blanket rule of allowing no downloading of any clip posted on YouTube.  YouTube’s users don’t get the choice whether they want others to be able to download their content. Lessig has been a vocal critic of this blanket rule as hampering the great potential offered by “true sharing” of content online (the Web 2.0 kind of ethos).  I agree.

Tech Crunch blog writer Michael Arrington says that the site will probably just take down the download program to “preserve [his] relationship with the company.”   

Will Google go up to $600 per share because of YouTube?

November 15, 2006

News: Is this irrational exuberance or what?  Credit Suisse (which had worked on the YouTube deal, but now can cover Google since the deal is done) has an analyst Heath Terry, who set the target price of Google at $600/share (it’s currently at $491.93/share.  Terry explains (see ZDNet):

The YouTube acquisition is certainly not without its own risks. The most significant issue facing Google following this acquisition is the potential for a deluge of litigation concerning copyrighted content on YouTube. A protracted legal battle in the courts could result in millions of dollars of legal expenses and settlement outside the courts is also a possibility. The worst case scenario can be seen in the fates of companies like Napster and MP3.com. Our analysis of the top 100 most viewed videos so far in November indicate that under 35% of these videos (by total views and number of videos) potentially contain contentious copyrighted material. This means that the majority of videos on the site are truly user-generated content. As a result, we believe the impact of Google/YouTube removing copyrighted content may be less than feared. However, it is unclear how much of YouTube’s traffic comes to site primarily for copyrighted content rather than user-generated videos.

Terry’s bet: The monetization of YouTube will outrun the copyright gnats. His price target for Google: $600.

Analysis:  Wow.  The stat on the percentage of user-created material that is the most popular (65% of the TOP 100 videos) is pretty amazing.  If true, it shows the huge potential for ordinary people to find viewers of their works on YouTube.  

NHL hockey on YouTube

November 15, 2006

News:  The National Hockey League became the first professional sport to agree to a deal with YouTube.  The NHL will market their games by showing 2- to 5-minute highlights clips from games on YouTube, within 24 hours of the actual games.  (More from Reuters and NHL)

Analysis: I like the idea.  Other sports should follow suit.  They should also allow fans (or YouTube users) to mash up the highlights to create their own little hockey videos.

Google sets aside $200 million warchest to fight copyright lawsuits

November 15, 2006

News:  The Google acquisition of YouTube was finalized earlier this week.  Although Google paid $1.65 billion in stock to buy YouTube, as a part of the agreement, Google set aside 12.5% of the amount to fight copyright lawsuits (or, in Google’s words, “to secure certain indemnification obligations.”  (More from the Chicago Tribune

Analysis:  $200 million is a sizeable warchest to fight copyright lawsuits.  It’s sort of a dual edged sword, though.  It shows that YouTube is willing to put its money where its mouth is to fight copyright lawsuits and prove its conduct is legal, but it also shows just how large the potential legal risk Google and YouTube estimated for copyright lawsuits.   

The business of stupid videos: Is Stephen Colbert right about YouTube?

November 15, 2006

I will be giving a talk to law students at my school on Wednesday.  The title of my talk is noted above.  We will be discussing this video of Stephen Colbert about the YouTube “ripoff.”  (Warning:  the video contains footage of two acts of stupidity and some graphic violence involving a guy hitting a person on the head with a shovel.)   

If you have any opinions on this video or the following questions, I’d love to hear them:

1.  Why is YouTube so popular among users?  What’s the point of posting silly videos online?

2.  How should major copyright holders, like the movie and music industries, deal with people posting clips of their content without authorization on YouTube?  

3.  Is YouTube really worth $1.65 billion?

UPDATE:  In the “rip-off” clip, Stephen Colbert joked about having Colbert Report clips up on YouTube, even though Viacom, his parent company, asked some to be removed.  Now, ironically, Viacom or the Colbert Report asked that the same video clip in which Colbert makes fun of Viacom and others over the use of his clips to be removed from YouTube.   “Rip-off” is now available on Comedy Central’s site here.

Did YouTube win the Senate for the Democrats?

November 14, 2006

News:  Scarborough had an interesting discussion about the role Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert played in the 2006 elections.  The discussion soon devolved into a debate about how much influence YouTube had in the Democrats winning the Senate races in Montana and Virginia. 

During the campaign, Senator Allen in Virginia got caught on video calling a Webb volunteer who was of Indian descent a “macaca,” which means a kind of monkey.  Senator Burns was caught on video several times saying that we should be worried about enemies “who drive taxi cabs during the day” and who kill at night.  Burns was also caught nearly falling asleep during an agricultural committee hearing.

Analysis:   Senator Allen’s double digit lead soon evaporated after the “macaca” incident, so there’s probably little doubt the incident seriously hurt his campaign.  I didn’t follow the Burns campaign as closely, but will check to see if I can find any numbers from his campaign. 

As far as YouTube’s role in all this, the Allen “macaca” video did generate over 400,000 hits (in today’s count), so in an election that Jim Webb won by fewer than 9,000 votes, the video probably did matter.  To the extent YouTube gave people access to the video, it probably had an effect on the election.

The X factor: foreign liability of video sites on the Internet

November 13, 2006

News:  Google reportedly has been sued in France for copyright infringement of a French documentary allegedly posted without authorization on Google Video.  The complaint seeks $193,000.  (More from LA Times)

Analysis:  This case is small potatoes for Google in terms of the amount of damages sought, but it is potentially a very big worry for all video sharing sites.  This is the “X” factor, something I should have discussed before. 

Basically, each country has its own copyright laws that govern infringement within that country.  Although most countries in the WTO have similar copyright laws in broad outline, the fine details can be different.  The DMCA safe harbor, for example, is a U.S. law for conduct in the U.S.   Thus, while it may provide a safe haven for Google or YouTube and others in the U.S., it would not outside of the U.S.  I’m not sure if (and how many) other countries have adopted a similar safe harbor as the U.S.  Uh-oh

Veteran’s Day, in memoriam

November 11, 2006

CNN has this tribute to the fallen soldiers in Iraq, including Army Sgt. Willsun Mock.   It’s worth watching the 4 minute CNN video on this Veteran’s Day. 

Video of the week: A veteran’s day

November 10, 2006

What is Web 2.0?

November 9, 2006

News:  Out in San Francisco, the Web 2.0 Summit organized by John Battelle is concluding today.  Apparently, it’s been quite a zoo.  I wish they had pictures — or, better yet, videos. 

So what exactly is Web 2.0?  Basically, it’s the second version of the Web, although different people may have different ideas about what makes it a new version.  Here’s Yochai Benkler’s (a Yale Law prof’s) explanation.

Business: Sun Microsystems tells employees to make YouTube videos — what?!

November 8, 2006

News:  Sun Microsystems (which encourages its employees to blog) has set up a contest for its employees, asking them to make the best YouTube video to advertise Sun products.  Below is Executive VP of servers John Fowler discussing the contest.  (More from ZDNet)

Analysis:  This sounds like fun.  I imagine Sun has lots of techie people who can come with creative ads or at least videos.  Whether the contest will work in promoting Sun products, it’s hard to say, though.  Some YouTubers might see this as a corporate infiltration of their site and peer production.

Education: should we teach YouTube in schools?

November 7, 2006

News:  Year 8 students (14 year olds) in Eltham College, a private school in Australia, are taking a class this year on YouTube.  The students “study” videos online, as well as post their own videos on YouTube.  Stuart King, the mastermind behind the idea, thought the course would help “teach students about creativity, the use of language and even publicity and promotion.” (More from the age.) 

Analysis:  Wow, what can I say.  I need more time to study and reflect upon the issue.  I’m all in favor of innovative teaching and courses, but I am not exactly sure about an entire course in YouTube for teenagers.  I’m not ruling it out, but I’d like to know more about the pedagogical goals of the course and how the course is structured.  The news article did mention that teaching students about respecting copyrights was one of the goals, but, based on my quick review of two of the videos prepared by the students, a couple appear to use copyrighted photos.

After reviewing the videos, I tried to find one to post up here.  This is what I settled on.  If you have children, you probably can relate.

YouTube on demand + on cellphones

November 7, 2006

News:  WSJ reports that YouTube is nearing a deal with Verizon to offer YouTube videos on Verizon’s cellphones and also on demand on its cable service.  (More from Reuters)

Analysis:  This would be a great deal for YouTube, but just how many silly videos can a person watch in one day?

YouTube selected Time Magazine’s “Best Invention of 2006”

November 6, 2006

News:  Time Magazine just named YouTube the Best Invention of 2006.  Said Time:  “It’s been an interesting year in technology. Nintendo invented a video game you control with a magic wand. A new kind of car traveled 3,145 miles on a single gallon of gas. A robot learned to ride a bike. Somebody came up with a nanofabric umbrella that doesn’t stay wet. But only YouTube created a new way for millions of people to entertain, educate, shock, rock and grok one another on a scale we’ve never seen before. That’s why it’s Time’s Invention of the Year for 2006. * * *

“YouTube is ultimately more interesting as a community and a culture, however, than as a cash cow. It’s the fulfillment of the promise that Web 1.0 made 15 years ago. The way blogs made regular folks into journalists, YouTube makes them into celebrities. The real challenge old media face isn’t protecting their precious copyrighted material. It’s figuring out what to do when the rest of us make something better.”