[LINK] YouTube and copyright

Kim Holburn kim at holburn.net
Mon Jul 17 19:34:59 AEST 2006

I too have wondered how YouTube can put up some of the stuff it does.

YouTube and the copyright cops: safe... for now?:


> If you've never heard of YouTube, let me introduce you: YouTube is  
> a massively popular video sharing site that has quickly become one  
> of the Internet's most trafficked websites, climbing into the top  
> 50 of all sites online in a year's time (as tracked by Alexa).  
> According to Nielsen NetRatings, the site serves almost 13 million  
> users a month and serves up 50 million videos each day. Maybe  
> you've been by the site to see Jon Stewart's hilarious (yet  
> depressingly accurate) coverage of the "'Net neutrality" debate, or  
> maybe you enjoyed watching Ernesto Hoost and friends in Silent  
> Library. And maybe, just maybe, you've enjoyed some videos that  
> weren't uploaded without the copyright owner's permission, too.
> See, YouTube's continued survival is bit of a mystery to some. The  
> site thrives in part on what appears to be copyright infringement,  
> but aside from a few scuffles (most notably with NBC), there's been  
> nothing Napster-ish about its history. TV clips, movie clips, you  
> name it... they all appear on the site regularly, and without  
> authorization. So far, the major lawsuits haven't shown up.
> Daniel Pearl, Deputy editor of BBC's Newsnight, recently compared  
> life at the venerable Beeb to life at YouTube. Noting that the BBC  
> has to get clearance for everything that it uses, Pearl asks, "So  
> why is there one rule for us and another for YouTube?" That is, why  
> does the BBC get hit with letters, licensing demands, and potential  
> lawsuits when they use unauthorized material, yet YouTube is packed  
> to the gills with it. "Perhaps someone could explain," he says.
> For Pearl and others with similar questions, you're in luck. See,  
> while the BBC and other news organizations are accountable for what  
> they show to users, YouTube is built upon laws that give them a  
> safe harbor. And believe it or not, it's the DMCA protecting YouTube 
> —the same DMCA that is destroying fair use. As the EFF's Fred von  
> Lohmann explains in an editorial for The Hollywood  Reporter Esq.,  
> YouTube is shielded because the site is an "online service  
> provider," arguably similar to your own Internet Service Provider  
> (ISP). Among other things, the DMCA provides protection for service  
> providers against being held responsible for the actions of their  
> users. Much like the RIAA can't sue Comcast for little Jimmy's  
> pirate web server he hosts on their broadband network, so too with  
> YouTube.
> As an online service provider, YouTube seemingly has an out of  
> almost any trouble you can throw at it. A disgruntled copyright  
> owner must first supply the company with a legal notice of the  
> infringement (the infamous takedown notice), and YouTube can stay  
> in the clear by merely identifying the infringing material and  
> removing it. They're safe from damages, even if 20,000 people  
> watched the unauthorized material. Why? Because they only host it.  
> Users upload the video (never mind how they got it), and that's  
> ultimately the big distinction between YouTube and, say, the BBC.  
> If the Beeb showed a 10 minute clip without authorization, they  
> could be liable for thousands of dollars. YouTube, no.
> As von Lohmann points out, this isn't a license to print money.  
> YouTube can lose its safe harbor protections if it appears that  
> they are directly profiting from the infringement of copyrights by  
> their users. In von Lohmann's opinion, this is why YouTube only  
> shows advertisements on pages without video on them. As the company  
> searches for a business model, it will be critically important for  
> them to stay away from anything that looks to capitalize on, well,  
> one of the things that makes the site so popular: copyright  
> infringement.

Kim Holburn
Network Consultant
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