Video of the week: Pres. Bush, so you think you can dance?

April 27, 2007

May not be pretty, but President Bush dances as a part of raising awareness for fighting malaria.

Let clips of presidential debates up on YouTube, says Lessig

April 26, 2007

News: In letters to the Chairs of the RNC and DNC reproduced on his blog, Lawrence Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons and Stanford Law professor (with other supporters) is asking the two parties to secure agreements from the networks who televise the presidential elections to allow people to make (re)uses of the copyrighted broadcasts provided attribution is given to the copyright holder. 

Although the deal would not be limited to YouTube, YouTube is the site that the press (see here) has rightfully focused on, given its influence already on the last midterm election.

Analysis:  This is a worthy proposal, but as even Lessig admits “I won’t like much of what this freedom will engender. But if that were a legitimate reason to regulate political speech, this would be a very different world.” 

The pluses are potentially engaging voters in the debates in ways unimagined before.  Just think voters could create their own “highlight” reel of the presidential debates, focusing on those segments that mattered to them most.  Also, voters could create their own video commercials for their favorite candidate, using footage from the debates.  Also, the availability of “time shifted” clips on YouTube would allow people who missed the broadcast to have access to the debates (or parts of them).  Having more access to what the presidential candidates said during the debates is undoubtedly a good thing.

Of course, with the good, we may also get the bad.  Bad, as in more negative ads, for starters.  Everyone with a computer could spin out a “swift boat” attack on a candidate, using footage from the debates.  Also, putting video clips on YouTube definitely feeds into the “sound bite” mentality of the media — which probably is not great for selecting a president.  Moreover, video clips probably would accentuate any gaffe or verbal mistatement (cf. “macaca”) made by a candidate — the prospect of which could, in turn, cause the candidates to be even more pre-packaged during the debates.  Some would argue, however, that finding those “gotcha” moments is not necessarily a bad thing.

My guess is that we’ll probably see the “negatives” occur, even if the networks and parties don’t agree to Lessig’s proposal.  We might also see some of the “positives” without it, too.  But a formal agreement that is announced to the public would serve as an open invitation to voters to engage in the positive activities.  And that would be a good thing.

Sony eyeVio (tries) to compete with YouTube

April 26, 2007

News: Add Sony to the list of major media corporations that plan on launching video sharing sites to compete with YouTube.  Sony’s will be called “eyeVio” and will be launched on Friday in Japan, according to Reuters.  Last month, News Corp. (owned by Rupert Murdoch) and NBC Universal announced plans to launch their own site as well. 

Sony says it will closely monitor content on its eyeVio site — which some say will be in marked contrast to YouTube’s automated system.  “We believe there’s a need for a clean and safe place where companies can place their advertisements,” Sony spokesperson Takeshi Honma said.

Analysis:   “Clean” place?  Hmm.  I wonder if that’s from a translation.  Still a thinly veiled slight at YouTube and its copyright controversies.  This is all part of the ongoing debate between (i) automated networks on the Internet and (ii) the desire among some copyright holders for human review of each file uploaded before it becomes available.   

Of course, we might envision some middle ground between the two poles, an automated network with some random human prescreening of a portion of uploaded files.   Unfortunately, under the DMCA safe harbor, the Internet service provider would be jeopardizing its claim to the safe harbor, the more it starts actively prescreening content and becoming aware of possible circumstances indicating infringement. 

It’s not clear whether Sony will be prescreening 100% of the files uploaded, or doing some smaller percentage.  Part of the problem, of course, is how many humans do you have to hire to screen 65,000 files a day, the amount YouTube typically gets?  And, once you hire all those people, having all those people determine what may be copyright infringement will inevitably be based on guesswork.  A litigation-averse company will likely be overinclusive and deny a third party’s posting of content if there’s any doubt.

Filtering technology may one day provide some greater relief.  But that’s probably long on the horizon, and it’s probably unlikely to be the silver bullet to screen out all or even most unauthorized uses of copyrighted videos.   I could be wrong about the filtering, but one thing to remember:  unauthorized uses of copyrighed works have always been a part of our copyright system.  We just haven’t been able to see them as easily as we do now on the Internet.   

Prime Minister Tony Blair joins YouTube

April 25, 2007

Just another sign of the influence YouTube has had on politics. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labour Party have set up their own channel on YouTube. I think they need to buy a better video camera, though, because the first video from Blair is a little grainy.

What next? George W. Bush on YouTube.

NBC agrees to test YouTube’s content (copyright) fingerprinting

April 25, 2007

News: NBC, owned by Universal, will be testing out YouTube’s deployment of content-identication software (reportedly from Audible Magic out of Los Gatos, CA). According to WSJ:

“Fingerprinting technology, by analyzing the audio or video tracks of a clip, could alert YouTube to the presence of material that a media company has registered as its own — regardless of who uploads it or what they title the clip. General Electric Co.’s NBC-Universal says it plans to participate in a test of fingerprinting on YouTube that it expects to start shortly. Technical staffs from the two companies are working together and they hope to have results by this summer, according to NBC.”

Analysis: Glad to see the two sides working together to deal with copyright infringement.  According to WSJ, the process will work something like this:  “Google is expected to use fingerprinting to flag pirated clips to the content owners, which then have to request they be removed.”  Of course, fingerprinting is a little bit short of automated filtering.  WSJ:  ‘It sounds like some kind of crazy lost and found,’ a senior executive at one of the big media companies says. ‘It’s not going to be enough,’ says another.”  I guess I think everyone needs to be patient and give this technology a chance to develop.

Here’s how Audible Magic describes its own system: “Patented CopySense identification techniques recognize media content based on digital “fingerprints” derived from perceptual characteristics of the content itself. The approach is highly accurate and requires no dependence on metadata, watermarks or file hashes. Best of all the technology is highly immune to compression or distortion, and it is indifferent to file or streaming format. It’s the best approach for recognizing content “in the wild.” Integration of CopySense technology is made simple with an efficient and compact API library.”

YouTube has become a person

April 24, 2007

“Hello, YouTube,” is a common greeting many people say on their videos.  I’m struck by it because it’s almost as if YouTube has become a real person in these videos, the collective audience on YouTube.  Now, John Edwards is saying it.  Obviously, his speech writer is in tune with the YouTube lingo.  Hello, YouTube.

Terra Naomi, mini-documentary, Episode 1

April 24, 2007

Nice to see talent, discovered.