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Protecting creators from YouTube

Detecting and stopping infringements on user-generated content sites is an impossible task for music creators, the head of a trade group for independent labels argues.

July 01, 2010|By Rich Bengloff

The June 29 editorial about a court absolving YouTube of liability for copyright infringement asserts that for the Internet to work, YouTube can't be required to police the behavior on its service. The piece does not acknowledge that if YouTube-type services do not screen the music that users post on their sites, then music creators must turn into Internet police. Otherwise these creators may not be fairly compensated for their musical works. 

YouTube adds 24 hours of new video content each minute of every day, much of it user-generated. There is no way for the creator community, in particular the independent labels in the American Assn. of Independent Music that simply lack the resources to monitor the amount of infringement taking place on this "mere host," as the editorial calls YouTube.

The YouTube business model is based, in part, on encouraging infringements in the form of user-generated content that take advantage of a perceived loophole in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. User-generated infringements overwhelm any creators that object to the use of their copyrighted material on sites like YouTube, turning them from creators into full-time monitors that must send take-down notices, scrutinize for compliance and litigate when a service doesn't stop infringing.  Multiply that by the number of hours of video placed on YouTube daily (and then multiply again by the number of other "user generated" content services), and it doesn't take a clairvoyant to see that the future of independent creators that seek to be fairly compensated for their work is bleak.

The Times' editorial board, like many who support technology at the expense of creators, points broadly to the fact that many "entertainment companies" are striking deals with YouTube and generating revenue from material posted online as a sign of cooperation and more productive than litigation. Is it really cooperation when the creator must choose between futile take-down efforts and whatever terms YouTube will offer, even though it offers virtually no revenue?  

Rulings such as the recent District Court judgment in Viacom vs. YouTube favor Internet services over creators and threaten our nation's rich culture of intellectual property creation. As the distributors of content, the services should be responsible for preventing infringements. They should license the music in the clips posted on their sites and fairly compensate the creators whose works they use to drive their businesses, rather than turning them into monitoring police or hobbyists simply happy to have someone see or hear what they've created.


Rich Bengloff is president of the American Assn. of Independent Music, a trade association for independent record labels.

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