Will Hulu kill YouTube?

October 30, 2007

News: NBC Universal and Fox have teamed up to develop a video site called “Hulu” that will deliver “premium” content of their own TV shows, like The Office and Prison Break. Users can’t upload anything, sorry. Wired gives the beta version of Hulu a favorable review. (I’ve signed up for the beta, but am still waiting on my invite.)

Analysis: So will Hulu be the “YouTube killer” it was touted by some to be? I think Wired has the right answer: basically, no. (“[W]ith the lack of user-generated content, it falls short of the end-all be-all site for online video. Viewers are still going to go to YouTube and still click their ads — but in terms of piracy a minor rebellion may have been quelled.”) But here’s what Hulu will help to kill: the DVR industry and the primacy of network television. As I’ve been saying all along, this is the beginning of the end of television as we know it.

Microsoft Soapbox back up again

June 5, 2007

News: Microsoft has relaunched the beta version of Soapbox, a wannabe competitor to YouTube. Microsoft had taken it down due to copyright infringement concerns.  Now, Microsoft is using Audible Magic’s filtering program to catch copyrighted music in video files. (More)

Analysis: The user-interface is much improved compared to the first version. It still looks a little cluttered, though. And, of course, Microsoft is already well behind the game — YouTube has billions of video files already!

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.