Today, I read news that Viacom has ordered YouTube to pull down 100,000 videos that allegedly violate their copyrights. I don’t get it.
Clearly, the problem is that nobody truly believes free online exposure is a good thing. And you know what, perhaps it isn’t always. Nobody knows right now because the idea is not tested enough. Here’s what happens.
- The content producers makes something cool, such as the Colbert Report, sells some TV ad spots, and puts it up on cable. They reap the rewards.
- Then some no name punk comes in, strips out the commercials, and puts the entire show, for free, on the Internet.
- This gives viewers a chance to see the show without turning on the TV, thus avoiding the ads.
At least this is how Viacom and other major producers see it. And in response, many of large networks have put up their own crappier sites that host the content infused with ads. But for some reason they can’t fathom, no matter how hard they try, it fails to catch on.
They blame YouTube for this. And subsequently start the lawsuits. But YouTube isn’t without blame here. I can’t speculate on what has been offered, but I can see some very important features that need to be in place before a major content producer signs up:
- The ability, much like on videos on abc.com, to have limited fast forwarding so you can’t play a particular segment of a video without first viewing the ad for that section. It’s a reasonable restriction that most consumers will not mind.
- Copyright detection software going live.
A while ago, it was speculated that YouTube had some copyright detecting software coming up. Well, here’s how it should work:
- Viacom uploads a video with ads into the special sponsors section of the website
- It is encoded with a special filter that watermarks the entire video
- If anybody else re-posts the video on YouTube, the content is automatically flagged, taken down, and the user is suspended.
Let’s see some compromise here.
No, Viacom, people are not demanding free content. No, RIAA, people who pirate aren’t doing it because they hate paying for music. The point is, the market is demanding content be online and in an easy to access, less restrictive manner. People will pay for this. It may not be the arm and leg some producers are hoping for, but with the reduced distribution costs and elimination of some middlemen it should be a sound idea to at least attempt the transition.
So what is with all of this all or nothing bullshit? It can’t work. If you give everybody nothing, people will have a greater motivation to circumvent your rules. The crowd has spoken, and a single content producer’s website will never gain real traction with the video viewing demographic because people want to be able to go to one place to quench all of their video watching needs. Viacom can’t fight a tsunami of Internet democracy – something the RIAA/MPAA have proven damn near impossible even if you sue 10,000 people.