I am Esmee Denters

March 30, 2007

Dutch singing sensation Esmee Denters introduces herself in this video and on her official website.  Hello, world.

Video of the week: Karl Rove dancing is “unconstitutional”

March 30, 2007

I agree with Letterman, but if you can stomach more of this, there’s more footage from CSPAN and AP here (2 minutes), here (4 minutes), and here (8 plus minutes).

Terra Naomi wins 2006 YouTube Award for music

March 26, 2007

News:  YouTube announced its 2006 YouTube Awards after one week of voting.  I was away all last week, but here’s how I think the winners were selected.  I believe YouTube selected the 10 finalists for each category and allowed 1 week of voting online.  The winners were announced today and the runners up.  You can see the winners here and all the runners up in each categoryl here.  The winners were:

Best Music VideoTerra Naomi, “Say It’s Possible”

Most Creative Video OK Go, on Treadmills

Most InspirationalFree Hugs Campaign 

Most AdorableKiwi!

Best Series: Ask a Ninja

Best CommentaryThe Winekone, Hotness Prevails

Best Comedy: Smosh 2, Stranded

Analysis:  I’m surprised Lonelygirl15 wasn’t up for voting.  I don’t really follow the series, but it seems like a huge omission for YouTube not to include the show. 

I also think that YouTube should do much more with these awards.  I can’t believe the entire thing happened within 1 week, without much time for voting or publicity.  I think the winners were on CBS this morning, but I don’t think many people even knew about it.  In the future, YouTube should try to increase the publicity and stature of the event.

First, I would always hold the awards the week before the Oscars.  Second, I would create a nice trophy and perhaps even give some monetary award to the winners.  After all, most of the winners probably are “starving artist” types.  (I’m not sure what the winners got, other than their names posted.)  Third, I would hold a nice banquet at which the winners are announced.  YouTube should film the announcements and then create a short video for their site.    I also would increase the number of categories.  There should be a “Video of the Year,” for sure, and a category for “Best Video from a TV show/YouTube partner.”        

Why should YouTube do this?  It’s good PR for their site.  And it adds to the incentive for people to create videos for their site.  Adding prestige to the Awards will only add to YouTube’s appeal to users.    

Negative ads hit YouTube: “Hilary Clinton 1984”

March 25, 2007

I saw this negative ad when it was first posted on March 5, 2007. This past week, it was finally revealed that the poster claims to be sympathetic to the Barack Obama campaign, although he’s not affiliated with Obama.

There are all sorts of issues, including copyright ones, raised by the negative ad. I hope to discuss some of them soon.  In the meantime, Wired has some analysis of the negative politics side.

New Esmee Denters video: tribute to Luther Vandross

March 19, 2007


March Madness on YouTube, 2: Ohio State’s last second comeback against Xavier

March 17, 2007

I love this announcer! Who is this guy?

Sorry, I didn’t realize embedding doesn’t work for these videos.  Just double click on the image and that will send you to YouTube.

March Madness on YouTube

March 17, 2007

You can get up-to-date highlights on YouTube (thanks to CBS and Pontiac).

Video of the week: Simon Cowell, on being stoned

March 16, 2007

Has Viacom overblown its case?

March 15, 2007

In my former days in private practice, I had to draft several complaints.  Back then, as a young lawyer, I was big into rhetoric, so I enjoyed throwing in a lot of gloomy, doomsday-sounding words.  Now that I’ve matured (at least as a lawyer) I’m more often turned off by overblown rhetoric.  Overstating one’s case can backfire by raising expectations of the court higher than the evidence supports.

Reading over Viacom’s complaint, I fear that Viacom has overblown its case.  It has the kind of rhetoric–doomsday– appealing to young associates.  In a short complaint of only 27 pages, Viacom uses the word “massive” 9 times, “rampant” 4 times, and “brazen” twice.  Here’s one example:

Viacom:  “Using the leverage of the Internet, YouTube appropriates the value of creative content on a massive scale for YouTube’s benefit without payment or license.  YouTube’s brazen disregard of the intellectual property laws fundamentally threatens not just Plaintiffs, but the economic underpinnings of one of the most important sectors of the United States economy.”   

Viacom goes even further:  “Defendants know and intend that a substantial amount of the content on the YouTube site consists of unlicensed infringing copies of copyrighted works and have done little or nothing to prevent this massive infringement.  To the contrary, the availability on the YouTube site of a vast library of the copyrighted works of Plaintiffs and others is the cornerstone of Defendants’ business plan.  YouTube deliberately built up a library of infringing works to draw traffic to the YouTube site, enabling it to gain a commanding market share, earn significant revenues, and increase its enterprise value.” 

Analysis:  I doubt that Viacom will be able to substantiate most of these bold assertions.  For starters, YouTube only made $15 million in revenue last year and none from Viacom’s unauthorized clips.  Second, to suggest that the “cornerstone” of YouTube’s business plan is based on exploiting infringing works seems to fly in the face of all the legitimate content on YouTube, as Businessweek’s Catharine Holahan points out.  Based on my own review of YouTube files posted daily, I would estimate that the vast majority of works on YouTube do not involve any recorded clips of TV shows.  Most are user-generated videos, which I believe is also the case for the majority of the “most viewed videos,” all time, on YouTube.

Viacom probably has a somewhat inflated view of how important video clips of its shows are to YouTube.  Compete blog’s Max Freiert has a statistical analysis (which I hope to discuss more) indicating that YouTube became more popular after all Viacom’s clips were removed.  I haven’t had a chance to study these numbers, but my hunch would be that it’s probably correct.  Viacom complained about 130,000 clips.  But YouTube probably has several billion clips now, receiving 65,000 a day.  That would make Viacom clips on YouTube less than a fraction of one percent of all clips on YouTube.  I mean, I like Stephen Colbert and all, but he’s not the reason I go to YouTube.

Viacom’s lawsuit against YouTube: What backlash Viacom may face from YouTubers

March 15, 2007

News: In Viacom Suit Won’t Snuff Out YouTube, Catherine Holahan of BusinessWeek.com has an insightful assessment of Viacom’s copyright lawsuit against YouTube. The article distinguishes YouTube from Napster, and makes several points in YouTube’s favor.

One point that I was not aware of about Viacom’s lawsuit: Viacom has not asked for an order stopping YouTube’s operation (as apparently was the case in the RIAA’s lawsuit against Napster)–which Holahan suggests means the following: “One reason for this could be that Viacom, owner of youth brand MTV Networks as well as Comedy Central, may not want to anger its key demographic in the same way that the RIAA did when it began to sue users of peer-to-peer sites. Another reason, says Rutchik, is that the whole suit is simply a negotiating tactic to make Google more willing to pay Viacom for its content.”

Analysis: I don’t think we should read too much into Viacom’s language describing the scope of the permanent injunction it seeks against YouTube.  It’s pretty generic.  I do think Holahan’s suggestion, though, is on target: given YouTube’s popularity, any company that caused or asked for a shutdown of YouTube, even if only temporary, would face a huge, perhaps cataclysmic backlash among millions of YouTubers. I’m reminded of what happened in Brazil when a court ordered it shut down there due to a sex video of a Brazilian model. The Brazilian model Daniela Cicarelli faced so much animosity from fans that she tried to distance herself from the lawsuit. Ironically, Cicarelli works for Brazil MTV, which is owned by Viacom.

There’s already a movement now on YouTube to “Boycott Viacom.” I’m not sure how successfull it will be unless YouTube becomes truly at risk of losing the lawsuit.

YouTube’s defenses to Viacom copyright lawsuit

March 14, 2007

YouTube should have two main defenses to Viacom’s copyright lawsuit, although the first is the one more often talked about: (1) the DMCA safe harbor for hosting content and providing locator tools, Section 512(c), (d), and (2) the Netcom/CoStar defense for automated online systems.

In an article in The Reporter, Esq., EFF’s Fred von Lohmann provided a pretty fair and thorough analysis of the defenses even before Google bought YouTube — identifying even the possible ambiguities in the safe harbor provision and likely areas of contention. I do agree with von Lohmann’s basic analysis, and recommend his article for those who want to familiarize themselves with the basic legal arguments. As the case progresses, I hope to write in greater depth about YouTube’s defenses.

Viacom v. Google + YouTube

March 13, 2007

Here’s Viacom’s press release about its $1 billion copyright lawsuit against Google and YouTube:

NEW YORK, March 13, 2007 – Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B) today announced that it has sued YouTube and Google in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for massive intentional copyright infringement of Viacom’s entertainment properties. The suit seeks more than $1 billion in damages, as well as an injunction prohibiting Google and YouTube from further copyright infringement. The complaint contends that almost 160,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom’s programming have been available on YouTube and that these clips had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

In connection with the filing, Viacom released the following statement:

“YouTube is a significant, for-profit organization that has built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others’ creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google. Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws. In fact, YouTube’s strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site, thus generating significant traffic and revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden – and high cost – of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement.

This behavior stands in stark contrast to the actions of other significant distributors, who have recognized the fair value of entertainment content and have concluded agreements to make content legally available to their customers around the world.

There is no question that YouTube and Google are continuing to take the fruit of our efforts without permission and destroying enormous value in the process. This is value that rightfully belongs to the writers, directors and talent who create it and companies like Viacom that have invested to make possible this innovation and creativity.

After a great deal of unproductive negotiation, and remedial efforts by ourselves and other copyright holders, YouTube continues in its unlawful business model. Therefore, we must turn to the courts to prevent Google and YouTube from continuing to steal value from artists and to obtain compensation for the significant damage they have caused.”


Viacom sues YouTube + Google for $1 billion, alleging copyright infringement

March 13, 2007

News: Viacom has taken the gloves off. (Reuters has more)

Analysis: If this case does not settle, it will test the requirements of the DMCA safe harbor provisions under Section 512(c), (d) of the Copyright Act. YouTube has respectable arguments that it falls within the safe harbor, but nothing in the law is certain until a court faces the precise situation at issue.

I’ve got a class to teach today, so I will not be able to comment more until a little later. You can find an earlier post I did on the DMCA safe harbor here, and on Fred von Lohmann’s and John Palfrey’s analysis here.

Turkey lifts ban on YouTube

March 12, 2007

News:  A Turkish court lifted its ban on access to YouTube in Turkey after YouTube removed the videos, apparently posted by Greek users of YouTube, that had depicted or insulted the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as a homosexual.  According to a Southeast European Times article, “Under Turkish law, it is forbidden to ‘insult Turkishness’ or to slander Ataturk, whose name means ‘Father of the Turks.'”

“‘The internet is an international phenomenon, and while technology can bring great opportunity and access to information globally, it can also present new and unique cultural challenges,’ YouTube said in a statement after the ban was imposed. ‘We respect the authorities in Turkey and are committed to working with them to resolve this. We should note, however, that the video in question is no longer on the site.'”

Analysis:  The international dimensions of this dispute make this a difficult case.  Obviously, in the U.S., where we have the freedom of speech, name calling and mere insults (absent defamation or a very hard to prove category of “fighting words”) are protected under the First Amendment.  In Turkey, however, that appears not to be the case, at least when the target of the derision is the Ataturk.  Because YouTube is available on the Internet around the globe, it will face challenges in implementing a consistent policy on allowing or removing certain clips that some may view as offensive.  For example, just last week, Ann Coulter not so subtly referred to presidential candidate John Edwards as a “faggot,” and that video is still available on YouTube.  In some respects, having the video available for public scrutiny seems like a better antidote here to Coulter’s slur because the video exposes Coulter in a way that a written news report could not.

Esmee Denters plays piano on YouTube, with better equipment

March 11, 2007

So here’s what Esmee Denters sounds like playing the piano on YouTube, recorded with better sound equipment. All I can say is wow. I knew she was good, but she’s even better than I thought. Amazing. This is the best video Esmee has made so far, by far.

For all of The Utube Blog’s posts on Esmee, visit here.

More American Idol chatter–did American Idol abandon Taylor Hicks?

March 9, 2007

Sorry, because I’ve had a busy week, I don’t have a Video of the Week selection this week. But in its place, I again have a few comments on American Idol. The last time I posted about about Idol, the post drew a lot of interest. So here are two more posts that I posted on the In re blog, which is written by one of my students. I’ll be guest blogging there for a little bit:

1. Has American Idol abandoned last year’s winner Taylor Hicks?

2. Did Antonella Barba get a raw deal on American Idol?

YouTube banned in Turkey

March 7, 2007

News:  A court in Turkey ordered the ban of YouTube in Turkey, apparently because some Greeks and Turkish people have been trading insults on video on YouTube.  According to the Times Online, “Greek videos reportedly accused the founding president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, of homosexuality; a Turkish user responded by calling Greece the birthplace of homosexuality. It is illegal to criticise either Ataturk or Turkishness in Turkey and the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul acted despite YouTube’s agreement to take down the offending videos.”  Turk Telecom, a state ISP, complied with the court order and shut down access to YouTube throughout Turkey.

Analysis:  Unbelievable.

Google CEO Schmidt talks shop on YouTube

March 7, 2007

News:  Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave a revealing interview/talk yesterday to industry and financial folks.  Schmidt tried to manage expectations on YouTube’s ability to earn money, saying:  “Looking at the traffic, user-generated video has tremendous interest. There is a large advertising opportunity to be built on that traffic. But an old joke in the Internet is that URL stands for Ubiquity first, Revenue Later.”

Schmidt also joked about some of the perceptions that Google is arrogant and plays hardball in negotiations:  “I’m sure we’re arrogant.  But I have learned that as part of being a player in the media industry, part of negotiations is that everything is leaked and you are sued to death.”

Meanwhile, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman defended his company’s decision to break off negotiations with YouTube, but left open the possibility of securing a deal:  “We may do a deal with them someday on terms that meet our criteria or we may not.”  Dauman couldn’t resist taking a potshot at YouTube’s user-created content:  “People aren’t going to spend money for user-generated content like a cat going to the bathroom.” More here and here.

Analysis:  There’s a lot of posturing here by two heavyweights.  Dauman’s quote about the cat videos is funny, but you shouldn’t underestimate the appeal of user-created content.  In fact, the majority of YouTube’s most watched videos are from ordinary users creating their own videos.  I think a lot of the appeal about YouTube is that it doesn’t provide all the same stuff on TV.

YouTube made $15 million in revenue last year

March 6, 2007

News:  Ellen Lee has an excellent article on “Google moves YouTube ahead:  since the acquisition, more deals struck with video, though copyright issues remain.”  In the article, it’s revealed that YouTube brought in (only) $15 million in revenue.  That’s more than 100 times less than the amount ($1.65 billion) Google paid to buy YouTube. Of course, YouTube is only 2 years old, so no one should expect it can bring manna from heaven.

User-created content infiltrates TV

March 6, 2007

News:  Jake Coyle has a provocative piece about “TV Networks Embrace YouTube Model,” which discusses how more TV networks are trying to incorporate videos created by their fans. According to Coyle, “VH1, currently airing the third season of ‘Web Junk 20,’ will next month premiere the Jack Black-produced ‘Acceptable TV,’ which attempts to fuse TV with the Web. In February, Nickelodeon debuted a two-hour programming block called ‘ME:TV,’ featuring contributions from 10-year-olds. TLC last week began a six-part documentary series, ‘My Life as a Child,’ where children were given cameras to videotape their lives.”

Current TV, which is shown by cable and satellite carriers in some 40 millions homes, utilized user-created content in “pods” even before YouTube.  On the Current TV site, you can upload your own videos and ads for the network.

Analysis: One day, we should expect to hear that one of the big networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox — has gone with some user-created content.  It’s a natural progression from reality TV, and, since the networks seem to be running out of original ideas, I think users can fill the creativity vaccuum facing the networks.

uTunes: Is Gina Moffit the next YouTube idol?

March 5, 2007

By now, most YouTube followers have heard of Esmee Denters and Mia Rose, two of the most popular wannabe singers on YouTube today. (And, of course, Terra Naomi is sort of in her own league.)

But you may not have heard of Gina Moffit. At least, not yet. You will. Here’s one of her original songs, “Waiting Game.” Even though her webcam was experiencing some audio problems (you’ll have to turn up the volume), you should be able to hear Gina’s sweet voice.  The tone of her voice is so pleasant to listen to, but what I really love is the occasional edge to her voice.  I’m not sure that’s the correct technical term, but you can hear it at 1:11, 1:05, :53, :32, :19, and :14 seconds left on the video.  More of Gina’s videos are here.

Does YouTube deserve a C- for its dealmaking?

March 5, 2007

News: Washington Post writer Sara Kehaulani Goo has written an article titled “YouTube struggles despite dominance.”  According to the article, Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research said, “‘I give them a C-minus [in dealmaking]. When you negotiate with a media company, you have to demonstrate respect for their content.” He said YouTube needed to use more sophisticated technology to prevent the unauthorized uploads, which would in turn help foster more trust between YouTube and the media companies. ‘There is software out there — it’s not perfect, but it’s out there.'”

Analysis:   I agree there were a few hiccups in the past month with YouTube.  Lost deals with CBS and Viacom, plus rumblings from Universal.  But Google CEO Eric Schmidt did seem to right the ship by his public comments.  And I still think it’s significant no big media content provider has sued YouTube yet.  This may be because, as Scott Kessler of Standard & Poor’s said, “If these companies want to distribute their video content online for free or supported by advertising, they need YouTube more than YouTube needs them.”

BBC joins YouTube bandwagon

March 5, 2007

News: Last Friday, the UK-based television network BBC announced a major deal with YouTube to post videos of BBC content. The BBC now has 3 channels on YouTube: (1) BBC, (2) BBC Worldwide, and BBC News (not yet up). BBC will get a cut of the advertising revenue generated by traffic brought to YouTube’s site. (More here)


The Esmee Denters interviews

March 4, 2007

News: TV stations in the Netherlands have been lining up to interview Esmee Denters. In the past week, she’s already had four interviews. She must be becoming something of a national celebrity in the Netherlands.

1. Video of Esmee Denters interview (3 minutes)

2. Video of Esmee Denters interview, with family (6 minutes)

3. Video of Esmee Denters interview, with her singing (9 minutes)

4.  Video of Esmee Denters interview, discussing her trip to US to negotiate record deals (5 minutes) 

Analysis: One of the best parts of the first 2 interviews is the behind-the-scenes look at how Esmee Denters “records” her YouTube videos. It’s quite simple: sit in front of webcam with karaoke music and hit record. That’s it. That’s what’s great about being discovered on YouTube. It’s pretty cheap.  The fourth interview talks more about Esmee’s negotiations with U.S. record labels; she hopes to secure the best deal that allows her the opportunity to write her own songs and call her own shots.  She also says that she wants to continute to post on YouTube.



Billboard/Reuters article on Esmee Denters and U.S. record labels — will she sign or won’t she?

March 3, 2007

News: Antony Bruno has written an article featuring Esmee Denters, the 18-year-old YouTube singing sensation. It is feutured in this week’s Billboard magazine, with Esmee partially on the cover. It’s also published online for Reuters. The article, titled “YouTube stars don’t always welcome record deals, describes how U.S. record labels have been pursuing Esmee — basically like a pack of high school boys pursuing the prom queen — to sign her to a record label. You can find all of Esmee’s YouTube videos here. Atlantic Records called a local hotel in the small Dutch village where Esmee lives and had the hotel rep track down every single Denters in the phone book. Atlantic Records then called each one of the listings until the employee got Esmee’s surprised mother. According to the article, “Denters has since traveled to the United States and met a veritable who’s who of the music industry’s leading executives, from Jason Flom to Antonio “L.A.” Reid to Tommy Motolla. She has recorded demo tracks with Kelly Rowland and is fielding TV deals with Sony Pictures Entertainment.”

But, so far, Esmee wants to stay on her own. “We may decide not to get together with a label. We may try new stuff. I’ve already accomplished so much on my own, we’d like to see what we can do with that.”


Video of the week: Homecoming — medical neglect for our wounded US soldiers from Iraq?

March 1, 2007

Newsweek, Washintgon Post, and MSNBC have all run reports in the past week about the serious medical neglect facing wounded U.S. soldiers upon their return from Iraq. 

1.  Newsweek, Forgotten Heroes

2.  Wash Post, The Hotel Aftermath

3.  Wash Post, Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration at Army’s Top Medical Facility

4.  MSNBC, Keith Olbermann video

In response, the Army has reportedly imposed media restrictions and told soldier/patients at some VA hospital that they can’t speak to reporters (see here).

The YouTube President, 2008

March 1, 2007

YouTube just launched a separate channel called “You Choose” for the 2008 Presidential campaigns. So far, 8 presidential candidates have videos posted on YouTube.