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YouTube Finds Signing Rights Deals Frustrating 172

Posted by Zonk
from the shouldn't-have-gone-legit dept.
Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "YouTube executives are finding it a slog to get all of the necessary permissions to license the songs and shows users are putting on the popular site, the Wall Street Journal reports. 'YouTube or its partners must locate parties ranging from studios to actors, and from music composers to the owners of venues, and get them to sign off. Where they don't succeed, YouTube risks being hit with lawsuits or having to take popular content down. "It's such a mess because the [entertainment companies] have all of these valuable assets that are just locked up with so many people who need to sign off on them," says YouTube Chief Executive Chad Hurley. "I don't know what it requires, if the government needs to be involved," Mr. Hurley laughs. "I don't know."'"
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YouTube Finds Signing Rights Deals Frustrating

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  • The guys who sold YouTube were smart. Take the money and run, because when your business model revolves around flagrantly breaking copyright, it's not gonna last.

    I suppose Google is smart enough to figure a way around it, but if not, no one's going to bother with it.
    • by plalonde2 (527372)
      They probably don't get to just take the money and run. Most of these kinds of deals are back-loaded: you get your payout after a certain time commitment. There are usually even incentives to perform. This keeps the actual value of the company (staff and execs) from walking as soon as they get handed 1.65 billion dollars. Gads.
      • by Cereal Box (4286)
        Well, the "run" part isn't necessarily literal. They got the money, that's what matters. If they'd waited it out, more and more problems like these would've come to light and the value of YouTube would've dwindled accordingly.
        • by plalonde2 (527372)
          But my point is that these same guys who built the mess are likely forced (financially) to be there to clean it up or find solutions to cleaning it up; I suspect the financial incentives to do so are considerable. Think of it more as "they will get" the money.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      The guys who sold YouTube were smart. Take the money and run, because when your business model revolves around flagrantly breaking copyright, it's not gonna last.

      Actually... AFAIK, as long as YouTube was not encouraging anyone to break copyright laws and was complying with take down notices, they didn't need to screen or license jack shit.

      Normally, the only person responsible for enforcing copyrights is the copyright holder.

      Or am I misunderstanding something?

    • Copyright law is broken.

      It is supposed to stir innovation, but it is now stifles innovation in the name of profit.

      Swell.

      Google, despite their failings, is still a decent company IMO.

      Stew
      • [Copyright law] is supposed to stir innovation, but it is now stifles innovation in the name of profit.

        I'm sorry, you've lost me. How do a load of people who can't be bothered to pay the asking price for the material like everyone else innovate in any way?

        • It's a good point you make, but the earlier poster made a mistake. He ought to've said that copyright law is supposed to maximize the public good, but that it now fails to do so, in the name of profit. Remember of course that the public good isn't merely the creation of original works (though that is part of it), but that it is also the creation of derivative works, and freedom to use, enjoy, copy, etc. those works.
  • says YouTube Chief Executive Chad Hurley. "I don't know what it requires, if the government needs to be involved," Mr. Hurley laughs. "I don't know."'"

    What it requires is that you pay them a shitload of money, Chad.

    • by monkeydo (173558)
      You're probably right. There are already groups like BMI, ASCAP, RIAA, MPLC, etc., that probably represent the bulk of the copyright owners that YouTube would have to pay off. I'm sure YouTube could work out a licensing arrangement, similar to what radio stations and restaurants have, that wouldn't require them to know exactly what was being published. For the remaining unrepresented copyright holders, YouTube could offer to publish their material for free, or allow them to request takedowns.

      But, YouTube
  • It's such a mess because the [entertainment companies] have all of these valuable assets

    Waaah! It's so much harder to make a truckload of money showing people web ads by attracting them with other people's valuable assets if we have to get permission. Waaah!
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      So right. Why is it so hard to imagine that it would be difficult to get permission for MILLIONS of different pieces of art? I'm sure it WAS much easier when they were simply trampling on the law-given rights of the artists. (Right or wrong, it's the law right now.)
    • I'd agree if Youtube were a wholesale clearinghouse of strictly copyrighted material. If it were, for example, like Napster.

      However, a large percentage (high 90s) of the content on YouTube is CREATIVE work, that happens to include some instances of licensed content somewhere within it.

      Reference a goofy lip sync of a popular song, or a claymation remake of star wars. Both of these technically would need to be "licensed" but sadly, the idea of copyright is to enhance innovation, not stifle it... so in this
      • by ScentCone (795499)
        Come on, now. We all know what we're talking about here: entire Simpsons episodes. Large chunks of "The Daily Show" or a whole stand-up routine from some Chris Rock HBO special. That's the stuff that's going to get them in hot water, and they know it. And - what a shock! - it's a pain in the ass that their users keep putting that stuff up there. Of course, if they weren't making money off of it, that might change things... but they ARE making money off of it, needless to say.
      • by monkeydo (173558)
        However, a large percentage (high 90s) of the content on YouTube is CREATIVE work, that happens to include some instances of licensed content somewhere within it.

        Everything on YouTube is copyrighted material. Some of it is up with the permission of the copyright owner, but there's probably a negligible amount that is really in the public domain. Unless it's been uploaded by the person who made it, or with his permission then all the stuff on YouTube is infringing someone's copyright.
  • by TopShelf (92521) on Friday November 03, 2006 @01:58PM (#16706747) Homepage Journal
    At least you have some entities getting out ahead of this [nhl.com] and cooperating with YouTube/Google Video to get their content out there, like the NHL [google.com]. They're including current games, as well as selected "classics" from previous ones. They're even interested in incorporating user-generated content into the mix...
    • I'm a huge NHL fan, but lets face facts -- NHL is #4 of 4 for the 'big' sports leagues, and realistically alot of other sports (e.g NASCAR, golf) probably beat the NHL ratings wise on a regular basis. Aside from men's tennis, there probably isn't a sport that has declined in popularity as much as the NHL has in the past 20 years.

      Its a bold move by the NHL -- kudos to them! But I doubt Youtube will get the distribution rights to the NFL anytime soon. Its a desperation play.

      • by sabernet (751826)
        Yeah, cuz, it's not like us Canadians can view Youtube or anything...

        A little out of the box thinking here:

        in the USA: NFL > NHL
        in Canada: NHL > NFL
        in the world in general: World Cup > NFL

        Youtube's availability: WorldWide(with the exception of firewalled nations)
  • YouTube executives are finding it a slog...

    I have to confess, I looked at "slog" and thought "Ughhh, that's the worst new blogoword since 'blogmarklet'!"

    Anyway, I'm not sure what the news is here -- someone else's job turns out to be a lot harder when it's you who has to do it?

    • I have to confess, I looked at "slog" and thought "Ughhh, that's the worst new blogoword since 'blogmarklet'!"

      You don't say this explicitly - but I assume you've since learned that "slog" has been a part of the English language for far longer than the internet has been around?
  • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Friday November 03, 2006 @02:00PM (#16706791)
    Not to say that Google are complete idiots, but we all knew this was coming.

    Were I behind the reigns at Google, I would have required they at least ink a few big content licensing deals before closing the transaction. In fact, with a bunch of licensing deals in place, possibly even some exclusive ones, I could see justifying a high valuation.

    Why pay the huge takeout premium they paid and then have to do all the hard work after the takeout? I meant, the technology is commoditized and trivial, and the userbase can't really be worth that much to a company as big as Google, especially when they already have Google Video and could easily outgrow YouTube by spending a tiny fraction of the takeout price on advertising and promotions.

    The whole deal is just downright strange.
    • by mav[LAG] (31387) on Friday November 03, 2006 @02:15PM (#16707049)
      Google is not run by fools. By inheriting YouTube's (fairly minor) legal hassles, they - and not someone else - get to decide what battles to fight and what to settle. Google has already done this with the library and book projects - picking and choosing their fights so that they get to determine what legal precedent is set. Some fights they won, some they lost but it was a lot better than sitting on the sidelines watching someone else being sued.

      Video is going to make Google an absolute fortune in five years time. The last thing they wanted is someone with shallower pockets determining the legal landscape for them. The technology is not yet "commoditized and trivial" enough. But it won't take long and when it is, the legal and business environment will have been determined by Google itself and no-one else.

      • Seriously, I think that's the single most insightful post I've seen anywhere on Google+YouTube.
    • by foobsr (693224) *
      The whole deal is just downright strange.

      Not so.

      Sequoia had made a good amount of money when Google agreed to buy YouTube for $1.65B. It is believed that Sequoia's $11M investment translated to 30% of the ownership.

      cf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoia_Capital [wikipedia.org]

      CC.
  • This is SOP for anyone re-distributing anything made in hollywood.

    Nothing to see here, please move along.
  • As much as the Slashdot community hates it, the DMCA is utterly clear on the topic. If a copyright owner can't even be bothered to send a DMCA-takedown notice about their content, then no harm, no foul.

    This required "opt-out" of other people using your material is a pretty powerful concept. That's why Clinton & the old Republican Congress balanced it with such an easy to use form.

    Google/Youtube has nothing to worry about legally. Other than ass--le judges who try to reinterpret law to add damages wh
    • by PCM2 (4486)

      As much as the Slashdot community hates it, the DMCA is utterly clear on the topic. If a copyright owner can't even be bothered to send a DMCA-takedown notice about their content, then no harm, no foul.

      Whoah! Where did you get this wrong-headed, crackpot idea? As much as the Slashdot community may hate it -- yourself included, apparently -- the DMCA is not the be-all, end-all of copyright law. It's an addendum to a lot of law that was already on the books.

      Some points you apparently fail to grasp:

      • Cop
      • So you're arguing that the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA [chillingeffects.org] don't apply to Google? I expect that there is a case for that, given that not benefitting financially is one of the requirements (and if they're not benefitting financially, I'd like to see the due diligence reports that justified spending that amount of money to buy YouTube). On the other hand, it doesn't seem cut and dried to me as a non-US non-lawyer, given that the stated intent of those provisions was to protect service providers who aren't

        • by PCM2 (4486)
          I think it's really questionable. The link you reference says the service provider has to have "no knowledge of, or financial benefit from, the infringing activity." If I'm a content site and I'm advertising-supported, the value of my ad impressions goes up relative to the quality of my content. So the ability to offer infringing content would confer financial benefit to me, no?

          Actually, I'm not saying that is definitely the case, and IANAL, but I can definitely see smart lawyers having a field day with the
        • by monkeydo (173558)
          It also wouldn't apply if they were soliciting copyright works. Do you think that people uploading TV shows (even if they wind up being taken down) helps or hurts YouTube?
  • I emailed Bruce Campbell about why they won't do AOD2 and its because so many companies own the rights that nothing could get done. It sucks too because he could be warped into a post apocolyptic future with Skeletons manning mechas and stuff.
  • When the Google buyout was announced, there was worry that this would lead to a multitude of law suits and this seems to be the case.

    A logical conclusion for YouTube will be a heavily "sanitised" version which will ultimately end with an upstart competitor taking over, as users leave in their droves because they can no longer exercise the freedom they once had.

    One needs to only look at the history of file sharing, specifically mp3, to see where this is all heading.

    As soon as there's a tie-in with a billion
  • What's that? Allowing anybody that wants to to upload anything they want to makes it hard for you to keep up with finding and signing the copyright holders?? Wow, I wonder if napster ever had that problem... I know ebaumsworld has no problem with that, since they just made their terms say "if you upload it, that means you must own it, therefore we now own it"
    • I know ebaumsworld has no problem with that, since they just made their terms say "if you upload it, that means you must own it, therefore we now own it"

      Yeah...just because they say it doesn't make it legal.

  • Could this be the same reason that there are often episodes missing from a season on iTunes? That the episode had a different director, producer, or writer who had a different contract that may have prevented alternative broadcasts or demanded additional royalties for them? I noticed one popular iTunes show had just one episode missing, and it was the only episode that had a celebrity cameo. You'd think that they'd have all of the episodes available for encoding to iTunes, so this is the only explanation I
  • YouTube or its partners must locate parties ranging from studios to actors, and from music composers to the owners of venues, and get them to sign off.

    Why?

    I'm sure if anyone has a problem with something on YouTube, they'll contact YouTube about it. That's when you get them to sign off or take the video down.

    Seems...almost too easy, doesn't it?

    • This is how it SHOULD work.

      Sadly, when the case goes to court, GooTube is going to owe someone a lot of money.

      The settlements are absolutely absurd. This is a bit like the copyright violation focused on by the RIAA, but orders of magnitude greater.

      Do you think Metallica was damaged $25,000 per song when that 14 year old girl downloaded their songs? No. But the court was putting that much up as "damages".

      What do you think the damages would amount to if the same group sued GooTube for putting up the same
  • by mlmitton (610008) on Friday November 03, 2006 @02:11PM (#16706987)
    It seems like it's time for a video version of ASCAP. For those who don't know, ASCAP is an association of music writers. When your local bar plays a song, it is legally obligated to pay the writer of that song. It would of course be impossible for every bar, restaurant, night club to get permission from every songwriter they want to play. Thus comes ASCAP. Songwriters join ASCAP, bars pay a fee to ASCAP, and ASCAP distributes money to its members according to ASCAP's measure of what music is being played. (They sample.) This is an obvious, very big efficiency (which is why the government has let ASCAP and BMI bypass antitrust laws).

    This hasn't been so much of an issue with respect to television. The number of outlets providing video feeds is, relatively speaking, quite small, and what they play is sufficiently uniform (or self-created) that a bureaucracy like ASCAP is unnecessary. But this changes with GooTube. Under the current model, YouTube does not have control over what gets uploaded to the site. This means they either have to police the site to be sure copyrighted content stays off -- which is difficult if not impossible, and not what the viewers want in any event -- or they have to slog through the myriad possible copyright owners who could end up on YouTube.

    An ASCAP like organization solves this conflict, and it benefits both YouTube and copyright holders. By banding together in this type of organization, the copyright holders can leverage their collective value to extract money from YouTube (and everyone else). That is, all copyright holders acting together will get far more money from YouTube than acting alone. On the flip side, YouTube gets to avoid the significant expense of acquiring licenses (as TFA says), and insure against the always-real possibility of a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

    It's a model that has worked in music for many decades, and it's what we need to look for in video.

    • Ahh yes, it all comes down to one phrase...

      "extract money"

      I'm not a fan of organizations who's goal is not.... "provide a valuable service" or "improve content" or "do something".... their sole purpose of being created is to "extract money" from popular community sources.

      Obviously it's not this simple. OBVIOUSLY, content takes time and money to produce... err wait, I guess Youtube sort of proves that wrong.

      Still, anyway, existance with the sole purpose of "extracting money" is the capitalist way, but it
      • by Telvin_3d (855514)
        Yeah, god forbid that anyone starts or runs a business with the intent of MAKING MONEY. I mean, if that catches on, it could be the end of the economy as we know it.

        Grow up.

        Lots of the content on YouTube did take large amounts of time and money to produce. No, little Timmy sitting at his computer uploading it did have to put much effort in to create it, but that is not the same thing. So, a television station or a group of artists or few friends spend anywhere from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands
    • by cfulmer (3166)
      There's an argument that rights organizations such as ASCAP and BMI over-compensate the top players and under-compensate the little guys. On a site such as YouTube, you can see how this would happen. Sure, there are lots of clips from Comedy Central or SNL, but there are also lots of clips of Joe-Bob falling off his dirt-bike while trying to jump a bonfire. All of these clips are covered by copyright, but it's likely that Joe-Bob's videographer won't see a dime from a video rights society.

      The other thing
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)
      What does ASCAP have to say about bars that bump songs paid for on the jukebox from being played? I know of one that announces bogus phone calls while they press a button that clears all songs paid for by the person who requested the current song.

      Oh, that's right, ASCAP has nothing to do with defending the rights of the listener. They'll gladly accept the percentage from the jukebox take regardless whether all purchased songs actually got played.

      The question is, is the artist happy to get the money and no
    • Ugh, no. Performing rights organizations are awful enough as it is. The last thing we need is more of them.
  • by BobSutan (467781)
    One part of me wants to smack Chad upside the head for crying about doing business. Another part wants to smack Chad upside the head for getting into a business that deals with horrendous copyright laws like we have here in the states. Perhaps this debacle can result in a new examination of US copyright laws so that they may be changed back to the way they were intended? You know, for the good of the nation...

    Right now things are so lopsided that the end result is going to be the loss of decades upon decade
  • ...before you say this was such an obvious thing, or that it's not the government's job to fix this.

    This is not just about posting music videos or TV shows. It also involves every single homemade video that is posted.

    A look at "Smack That" illustrates the complexities. Securing the online rights to the song by rappers Akon and Eminem -- No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart -- would involve permission from Akon's record label, Universal Motown. Most of the time, a label alone can grant a license for the use
  • Two words: Compulsory Licensing. It's been done before.
  • This is exactly the reason why they should have never ended copyright registration. If the Government still required registration in order for a work to be protected under copyright, then it would be easy to track who owns it. Require renewal every 14 years -- if the copyright is not renewed, then the work passes into the public domain after a 1 year grace period. This would make it easy to track down the rights holder(s). If there are multiple holders (i.e. recording artist, music writer, and lyricist)

  • Awww, the poor multi billion dollar corporation wants some compulsory licensing.

    I will be so pissed if YouTube manages to get some kind of compulsory licensing legislation passed that has a high barrier to entry, so that large corporations can use it but people can't on their own. We'd get all the artist-harming and none of the economic benefits of compulsory licensing (not that it's necessarily a perfect idea on its own).
  • When a musician records a song that will be released by one of the record labels, there is a clause in the contract with the musician that states something to the effect that "all of the sounds, samples, etc. incorporated in this work are either solely the property of the recording artist or have been properly licensed by the legitimate owner(s) of such sounds, samples, etc."

    This way, if I record a song that uses a snippet from a movie or from another song without having permission to use said
    • by cfulmer (3166)
      They're still liable for the infringement -- the "But, he *told* me it wasn't infringing" defense doesn't exist. The contract may get them out of willful infringement, at least unless they had notice. But, all that does is reduce the high end on damages that they'd have to pay.

  • Cute welsh corgi.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=7j8exGJ_7UM [youtube.com]
  • The answer here is pretty simple. As long as YouTube complies with DMCA takedown requests, they're safe. So, whenever someone files a takedown request, take down the content (temporarily) and negotiate a deal with them.

    Oh, and YouTube should be careful about this. I'm sure there are lots of folks out there (RIAA included) who will happily file takedown requests and then take money to put the content back up when they don't even hold the copyright in the first place.
  • Google bought themselves into a real mess. All those crap "videos" that consist of a slide show with pirated music require vast amounts of effort for copyright clearance. You need a "mechanical license" to cover reproducing the audio. You need a "synchronization license" to cover using the audio in conjunction with the visual work. You need copyright clearance on each still image. Face it, that stuff isn't original. YouTube is going to end up having to take down all material of that type unless the u

    • All those crap "videos" [...] YouTube is going to end up having to take down all material of that type unless the user goes through the copyright clearance process.

      So, you're saying the byzantine copyright system is a good thing? ;-)
  • The liability should always fall upon the person uploading the copyright infringing data. YouTube should not be held liable. However, they do need to take responsibility in pulling the video when the copyright holder confronts them with evidence it is infringing.

    In my opinion, copyright laws need to be changed. One thing that should be done is to have a low-quality exemption. If something is of significant low-quality compared to the original version, it should be exempt from copyright laws provided the mat

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