News: NBA announced a deal with YouTube to deliver basketball highlights on YouTube. Also, the NBA is holding a contest for people to send in their best basketball moves. See the video below. (Sorry, my best BBall moves would not make anyone’s highlight reel.) Even more exciting, on the NBA’s own site, users can apparently create their own mashups of NBA basketball highlights on NBA Highlight Mixer, through which you can synch in music from the NBA library. This is fantastic! I wonder what Mark Cuban has to say now.
News: In a few hours, BitTorrent will launch a new website, where you can rent movies, and buy TV shows, and video games. BitTorrent is famous for its peer-to-peer software (which does allow for illegal file sharing), but, after striking a deal with Hollywood studios, it is developing a a BitTorrent Entertainment Network on its site. The rub is, at least for the movies, you can only get a rented copy that expires in 30 days after purchase, or 24 hours after viewing. (More here)
“Somebody once said you have to embrace your enemy,” said Doug Lee, executive vice president of MGM’s new-media division. “We like the idea that they have millions of users worldwide. That is potentially fertile, legitimate ground for us.”
Analysis: Can’t wait to see the new site. Some question whether “renting” movies is inferior to being able to purchase them outright. My guess is that a significant number of people would be fine with renting a movie, just like Netflix. The difference here is that it takes 2 or 3 hours to download a movie over the Internet with a good broadband connection. That’s still pretty time consuming.
I’m at Villanova University, where I will be speaking on Saturday, 9 a.m., on a panel discussion about “Copyright Robin Hood’s or Ransackers: Will Future Legislation Find Media Distributors to be Merry Men or Merely Theives?”
That’s a pretty long title, but I’m basically talking about YouTube. Representatives from both RIAA and MPAA are speaking, too, so I’m really looking forward to the conference. You can watch the conference live on the Web on the Journal’s site.
News: After partnership deals with Viacom and then CBS broke down in the past week (with Viacom actually going to startup Joost to make a deal), CEO of Google Eric Schmidt announced yesterday that fighting copyright infringement is one of the company’s highest priorities.”We are definitely committed to (offering copyright protection technologies). It is one of the company’s highest priorities. We just reviewed that (issue) about an hour ago. [Anti-piracy filtering] is going to roll out very soon … It is not far away,” Schmidt said. Correcting earlier reports (or changing them) that YouTube would only offer filtering to partners, Schmidt said the filtering would be available to all. “We have to do that. But it takes a while to roll this stuff out.” (More here)
In a separate report, it was also announced that Google-YouTube will be adopting Audible Magic’s filtering, a popular digital fingerprint recognition system. According to the report, “[t]he system works by comparing the audio fingerprint of a video to a large database of copyrighted material. ” (More here)
Analysis: It looks like adult supervision is stepping in. Google CEO Eric Schmidt probably felt compelled to speak out publicly against copyright infringement because all of the bad press YouTube received in the past week, not to mention the two deals with Viacom and CBS that reportedly broke down. But no one should expect that Audible Magic will make unauthorized clips all miraculously disappear. Its filtering, first of all, is limited to audio fingerprinting (as I understand it), and, in any event, no system of filtering will come close to being 100% effective. But that’s not a bad thing. Copyright has always been “leaky,” going back to the founding of the U.S. in 1789. Copyright holders deserve a “fair return,” said the Supreme Court, but no more than that: “The immediate effect of our copyright law is to secure a fair return for an ‘author’s’ creative labor. But the ultimate aim is, by this incentive, to stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good.” Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 156 (1975).
Sorry, I’ve been insanely busy this week and will be skipping my usual “Video of the Week” selection. In its place, I have my American Idol predictions.
This is a slight diversion from YouTube, but each year, I like to predict the winner of American Idol during the preliminary stage even before the 12 finalists are selected. Sometimes, I’ve picked the winner based on just the tryouts based on a standout performance in the very beginning. My record right now is 2-2. I correctly predicted the winners of Season 2 (Ruben) and 3 (Fantasia). I missed on Season 4 (Carrie Underwood) and 5 (Taylor Hicks) — although I did have them in my final 3 and my picks (Bo Bice and Katharine McPhee) did make it to the finals. (As far as Season 1, I wasn’t even watching then. Sorry, Kelly Clarkson.)
This year, I haven’t been following Idol that closely. I’ve seen everybody once, though. So here are my picks:
Top 3: Lakisha Jones, Blake Lewis, Stephanie Edwards.
Top 2: Lakisha Jones (bank teller), and Blake Lewis (beat box guy).
The Next American Idol: Lakisha Jones (bank teller). OK, I only saw Lakisha sing once, but she gave the only performance of the year of any Idol contestant that sent chills up my spine (video also available here). She reminds me of Taylor Hicks in energy and ability to leave a lasting impression. Even if she didn’t win, I will remember that one performance. Pretty mind blowingly amazing.
News: USAToday had an article yesterday describing Pizza Hut’s video contest, searching for a “VP of Pizza” who will earn $25,000 and 1 year free of pizza for serving that position for 3 months. Here’s the promotion video on YouTube, and the contest rules.
According to the article: “The promotion launches just as Disney and CareerBuilder.com wrap up a video contest to be a theme park ‘cast member’ — what Disney calls its park staff — for a day and get a four-day stay for four at Disneyland. CareerBuilder.com is a job-finding site jointly owned by Tribune, McClatchy and USA TODAY parent Gannett. Through Tuesday, consumers could submit video entries showing why they should get one of five park jobs, such as parade performer or pirate. In both cases, the companies will name finalists, then online consumer voting will pick the winners. Entries also will be posted on YouTube.”
JetBlue has adopted its own Passenger’s Bill of Rights, which includes free vouchers for delays and $1,000 for any involuntary denial of boarding due to overbooking.
News: This past month, Viacom broke off negotiations with YouTube and demanded that YouTube remove over 100,000 unauthorized clips on YouTube — the clips contained some of Viacom’s most popular shows, like The Colbert Report and Daily Show. Yesterday, Viacom announced a licensing deal with Joost, a new video sharing site still in the beta version. Joost is based on a peer-to-peer model of streaming, but it won’t let users copy. The announcement only mentions shows like “Laguna Beach” and “Road Rules,” but not The Colbert Report and Daily Show.According to the San Jose Mercury News: “Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said YouTube was continuing to post Viacom’s films and TV shows without permission and warned that Viacom “will take whatever steps are necessary” to protect its content. He contrasted YouTube’s stance with the position of Joost’s founders, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis. “They took the right approach,” Dauman said in an interview. “I think it will be a great experience for consumers.” (More here)
Analysis: This is clearly a sign that Viacom does not like YouTube’s negotiating terms and its recent stance on filtering unauthorized content. Without knowing more about those terms, it’s hard for me to say which side, if any, was being unreasonable. But Viacom’s deal with Joost does signal that Viacom is ready to play hard ball. No wonder Google is hiring more lawyers.
News: On Friday, Google reportedly posted a classified ad on Hot Jobs seeking an “an experienced attorney that can negotiate video license agreements and advise senior management on recommended courses of action.” This comes on the heels of YouTube’s ruffling of feathers by its suggestion that its filtering technology won’t be available except to those entities that have deals with YouTube. (More here)
Analysis: Time to dust off my resume.
News: YouTube is late in rolling out anti-copyright-infringement tools, and now it reportedly has said or suggested that it will extend the filtering only to businesses that have secured deals with YouTube. One media source reportedly described this tactic by YouTube as close to a “mafia shakedown.” Said a Viacom rep, the “proposition that they will only protect copyrighted content if there’s a business deal in place is unacceptable.” (More here)
Analysis: If true, this maneuver by YouTube seems very questionable to me. YouTube should try to set a corporate policy of working with copyright holders to stop infringement, as far as practicable. Dangling filtering software like a bargaining chip makes YouTube sound opportunistic. This tactic could just agitate copyright holders into suing YouTube.
“What Goes Around” [Please note: the F-word is used several times in this video, so viewer’s discretion.]
I’ve always wondered why music videos are no longer as big as they were in the 80s. I still haven’t figured it out, but this video is reminiscent of the old days.
Awesome, another YouTube discovery.
News: MySpace beat YouTube to the punch today, announcing the deployment of software tools to help copyright holders identify audio files that have been incorporated into video without authorization of the copyright holders. The copyright holders can apparently send digital fingerprints contained in audio files to MySpace for its database; MySpace’s filtering presumably then attempts to identify video and audio files uploaded onto MySpace that contain the digital fingerprint. Any file that does so (without authorization) will be blocked. (More here)
Analysis: I can’t help but think this is a positive development for all interested parties. We don’t know how well this filtering technology works yet, but it’s a start.
News: YouTube agreed to revenue sharing deal with Digital Music Group to show 4,000 hours of old TV shows like “I Spy” from the Group’s library. DMG will get a percentage of revenue from ads appearing alongside its shows. (More here)
Analysis: This is genius. Not to toot my own horn, but I basically came up with the same idea last year when I was talking to a friend about all the many old TV shows that could be revived to generate more income. This deal is just a scratch of the surface. There are so many old shows that are just collecting dust somewhere in warehouses. Why aren’t more copyright holders trying to give these old shows a Second Life on the web?
Based on media portrayals of YouTube, it’s easy to overlook that probably most of the videos on YouTube are simply home videos typically taken by family or friends. I thought I should feature one on this blog, since I haven’t before. These kids are absolutely adorable.
News: YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley and Steve Chen each got about $325 million in Google Stock. Jawed Karim, the 3rd cofounder who left for Stanford, got $64.6 million. (More here)
Then, the sole venture capitalist backing YouTube, Sequoia Capital, got $442 million in Google stock. Another part of the pot went to Sequoia’s private investors, a who’s who list of elite institutions:
The families behind the Getty, Hewlitt-Packard, and Intel fortunes.
News: Media mogul Barry Diller has commented on the whole Viacom-copyright issue. I just wrote a lengthy post about YouTube’s intensifying copyright problems yesterday. Diller doesn’t think that any greater content restrictions will happen with video, but instead “everybody’s going to make everything available.” More from Investor’s Business Daily:
“Diller says such pricing and compensation issues eventually will be worked out and that online video content will be freely available. He says online video is such a potentially lucrative business that no one in the media industry wants to stop it. ‘Everybody’s going to make everything available’ when it comes to online video, he said.”
Analysis: This is exactly what I was talking about yesterday when I said video is here to stay. As Cisco CEO John Chambers said, video is the next “killer app.” That’s why many media companies want to get the piece of the action at YouTube, the leader in video–even while some complain about copyright issues. In the grand picture, even those media companies that complain about alleged copyright infringement on YouTube probably see greater financial benefit in the site (at least the potential) than any putative losses from infringement by third party users on YouTube. Diller’s comments are significant in backing the current “open” approach to video. He’s a smart businessman, so I think the smart money would be on his prediction.
Someone named “Fajita” has set up a YouTube account and even a blog, devoted entirely to the 18-year-old singer Mia Rose. Based on all the videos and photos, it appears that “Fajita” was a friend or acquaintance of Mia Rose. One of Fajita’s comments makes it sound like Fajita feels a bit left out in the cold, though: “Because Mia Rose shut down previous Fajita family members, there are only just a few Fajitas left.”
On a blog post on January 22, I predicted “it won’t be long before Esmee [Denters] signs her first recording contract.” Well, Esmee revealed today she’s coming to the U.S. to record music with people who have worked with some great artists. She credits her success to YouTube and her subscribers.
News: In the past week and a half, YouTube has come under increasing scrutiny for its perceived inability to prevent or remove efficiently copyrighted clips on YouTube that have been posted without authorization of the copyright holders. First, YouTube failed to deliver on its filtering technology at the start of 2007, as some critics say YouTube had promised. Last week, Viacom broke off negotiations with YouTube and demanded 100,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom owned shows to be removed from YouTube. YouTube took action to remove them, but reportedly removed even some legitimate videos of third parties in the process (see here). If that weren’t enough, the new NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker just blasted YouTube for these copyright problems (see here) — although Zucker didn’t mention that NBC has benefited from YouTube by posting NBC clips on the site, like the “uncensored” SNL video of Justin Timberlake “-ick in a box” skit that received over 13 million views on YouTube.
Even some legal experts who one might expect to be sympathetic to YouTube have come out criticizing YouTube this week. Harvard’s Berkman Center Director John Palfrey criticized YouTube’s current approach of self-policing of the site, at least from a copyright standpoint: “I think as a general matter, if the strategy is to keep copyrighted material off the Internet, it’s a losing strategy.” (Palfrey also posted a message of a third party who allegedly had one of his own clips mistakenly removed by YouTube when it tried to comply with Viacom’s DMCA notice.)
Analysis: At least some of the concerns of copyright holders are legitimate, but, to me, the question I have for the copyright holders: What’s your solution? That’s the $64,000 question that no copyright holder has yet answered. Maybe they believe that YouTube should have the answer. It’s true YouTube did tout the rollout of some filtering technology, and as of yet YouTube hasn’t delivered. We’ll have to wait and see on that one. Frankly, I’d rather have YouTube delay the launch of the filtering technology until the technology is really good. If they are still developing it, it’s in the interests of copyright holders to give YouTube more time to perfect it.
Besides filtering, YouTube could have its own employees screen all content, either before or soon after the content is posted. I’ll put aside for the moment questions of cost and labor, as well as how such conduct might affect its status under the DMCA safe harbors. The more vexing problem is creating a form of YouTube censorship. There’s a good chance that any human review of video clips would be overbroad, meaning employees who fear copyright lawsuits end up banning all videos that they have any question about. When in doubt, throw it out. Add into the equation, problem of human error (taking out videos by mistake, as noted in the article above), and you still have a far from perfect system. Would such a human screening system be better than the current system? It’s not clear to me that it would. If YouTube were to be the official censor of all content posted on its site, my guess is that the “uncensored” SNL video of Justin Timberlake’s “-ick in a box” would not have been allowed. In other words, NBC could not have posted what it did post on YouTube if we were to switch to a more aggressive, human policing system by YouTube. This is not to say that the current system is without its flaws, but we have to put things into perspective and consider what’s the alternative. Some might say shut down YouTube, but (besides being a nonstarter) that simply punts the question for the next YouTube. Video sharing is here to stay.
News: YouTube is becoming a popular law enforcement tool, at least in Canada. Here’s another video of “persons of interest” in a homicide case.
News: Negotiations between Viacom and YouTube broke off last year. The two sides had been trying to work out an agreement for YouTube to pay Viacom for all the unauthorized content on YouTube. Viacom is the parent company of such shows as Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Spongebob, and MTV. After the deal broke down, Viacom ordered YouTube to remove over 100,000 unauthorized clips on YouTube. YouTube said it would comply. (More from SF Chronicle)
Analysis: It’s hard to say who’s to blame for the negotiations breaking down. Maybe both sides. YouTube’s future success depends on its ability to convince big media conglomerates like Viacom to license its copyrighted content on YouTube. We’ll see if the two sides come back to the bargaining table.
UPDATE: Here’s the updated video that aired today on TV. Pretty emotional stuff.