Music Publishers Join Case Against Video Sharing Site YouTube

It is virtually impossible to prohibit users from uploading any type of video on YouTube, including uploading parts or all of a musicians’ music video. Even when artists request YouTube take down their videos because of copyright issues, new videos are uploaded the following day. Sharing amateur and professional videos on YouTube has been phenomenally successful in the past two years. In fact, YouTube has become so popular that the site sold to Google for 1.65 billion dollars in 2006. The site now has the financial backing and legal support to fight any allegations of copyright infringement, and can settle lawsuits in mediation for millions of dollars without incurring profit loss.

As a result, the case waged by media conglomerates, industry artists and music publishers against YouTube cannot be about who is right according to the law, it is also about the new wave in music, and the subsequent profits. Most avid music listeners download tunes from I-Tunes, or from music sharing sites. No matter how many lawsuits are alleged against YouTube and other music and video sharing sites, the trend to download music has triumphed over traditional record sales.

While music publishers may own the copyright, including the distribution rights to these videos, it is inevitable that they will be shared on YouTube. Music publisher will either have to join in on the new wave in online music promotion by releasing parts of music videos to YouTube, or will continue to lose millions in profits.

Clearly, YouTube users who upload music videos, (unless it is the artist or music publisher who is uploading) are in clear violation of copyright infringement laws. Uploading videos on this site are done without the consent of the owner of the copyright are in clear violation of section 27(1) of the Copyright Act. By downloading any of these illegally shared videos, viewers become secondary infringers according to section 27(2) of the act. Nevertheless, there must be others reasons why publishers are after YouTube besides infringement, and I suspect the motivation is financially driven.

Evidently, downloading videos and or music from the web is in clear violation of Copyright laws whether users agree or not, however frivolous lawsuits against sites like YouTube are not the answer. They vilify sites like YouTube without placing blame on the users that downloaded the videos initially. While this would be an extremely difficult prosecution to execute against the users, and almost impossible to win, involving tracking down computer IP addresses and finding the locations of these infringers to commence class-action proceedings against them, it appears just as ludicrous to me as prosecuting YouTube for allowing these videos to be uploaded. Hence, I propose an alternative solution. One of the top music industry executives, Rick Rubin currently head of Columbia records has proposed a revolutionary step to combat copyright infringement in music. Rather than working against these trends, he would like to work with them by creating a subscription model. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/
02/magazine/02rubin.t.html?pagewanted=5&_r=1
) His idea is to create a virtual library that one can access from a cell phone, car, computer and television. The monthly subscription rate would be low, and this would allow the music industry to grow much larger than it is now. This would also allow users to listen and watch authentic videos and music, rather than poorer quality bootlegged copies.

A challenge to the success of this model is getting all record companies to agree. As Rubin sees it, either the executives of these companies will have to work together to create music subscription sites or the industry will fall apart. The model will force companies to pool their talent and ignore the competitive nature with which they have signed artists to their labels. So, the economic plan would have to be rewritten for these companies, but if employed correctly with equitable means according to the popularity of the artist, it may be the perfect solution to the threat to music publishers from video and music sharing sites.

Rubin’s innovative idea is not shared amongst his colleagues. However, pompous publishers should realize that their current strategies are not working, and should opt to work with YouTube, in addition to creating their own music sharing libraries. They could release parts of music videos to YouTube, and post a link on YouTube to their own site where viewers can download the full video for a small fee. This way they would capitalize on the popularity of YouTube, by allowing it to help them promote their artists and help sell their work.

It seems to me that music publishers are not overly concerned with copyright infringement; rather they are suing YouTube because of their monetary interests in artist’s music videos and songs. They see their sales plummeting and they want to find these lost profits elsewhere by capitalizing on YouTube’s success. Industry publishers appear to be more focused on marketing and selling their products that they do to the quality of the work they produce. Individual artists such as Price have joined music publishing houses, Viacom and other companies, wanting a piece of the YouTube pie. They should strategize on other ways to increase their profits, and work with the new trend in file sharing of music and videos. In my opinion, sites like YouTube demonstrate the price gorging and profit driven nature of the music industry, propelling them to change their ways.

One Comment
  1. As identified by Sari, YouTube’s immense success cannot be understated. It is exactly because of this popularity that regulating use has proven to be difficult. Even when YouTube removes videos, they reappear the following day under different titles and descriptions from different user accounts. This raises the issue regarding YouTube’s ability to regulate its website, which is difficult vis-à-vis the freedom it affords users in publishing content. This difficulty however, does not mean that YouTube’s infringing activity should be permitted.

    YouTube’s argument that it is complying with the law because it removes clips violating copyright after receiving notification hardly meets copyright laws, as the clips remain available for downloading until YouTube becomes aware of them. Consequently, until these videos are brought to YouTube’s attention, they remain available to the public, which violates s.27(1) of the Copyright Act. In order to comply, it is necessary for YouTube to scrutinize the videos before being published, which admittedly is problematic given the number of users.

    Accordingly, the suggestion that the music industry should consider taking advantage of this technology justifies contemplation. However, unless the music industry embraces this technology, or YouTube restricts publications, they are violating copyright. The fact that the lawsuit is motivated by profit does not limit YouTube’s infringement nor should it, given that they are usurping the music industry’s rights. The music industry is merely exercising the rights inherently afforded to them by virtue of copyright protection: the right to protect the rewards derived through the original creations they own.

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