Megaupload vs. YouTube

An analogy may help. You have this warehouse that allows people to deposit copies of films and music. Then you allow other people to visit and take away those copies. At best, you don’t charge for such a service, yet you provide a facility for the transaction. What are you guilty of? Certainly not of the original theft. But you’re a fence. Did you know the goods were stolen? Perhaps not. But is your ignorance any defence? A reasonable person would say no.

The analogy is to Megaupload. But it might as well be to YouTube. What’s the difference?

There is an old (or perhaps not so old) adage, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” This seems to be the principle by which YouTube operates. Copyright holders must opt out of having their copyright infringed, rather than opt in by giving (or not giving) permission to copy.

Copyright infringement is rifest where condemnation of copyright infringement is the loudest. Excuses abound.

I gave full attribution of source.
It was open content, not subscriber.
I was helping them in this instance.
I was criticising, reviewing and reporting some … news. Fair use.
Some makers of film/ music are quite happy to let their work be copied.
When someone posts a video clip that violates copyright to YouTube they are told to remove it.
We have to take it on faith that the videos on YouTube that have been copied without approval are taken down again.
Some are old and the owner of the copyright doesn’t intend to make any more money from them and gives them away free.
Many bands/popsingers these days want to show that they are “down with the kids” and don’t enforce their copyright on video clips, but probably actually see it as being good advertising for their music.

They probably do. But how would you ever know? The “it’s not a copyright violation unless someone complains” philosophy in evidence here just doesn’t wash.

In any case, can YouTube avail itself of the above excuses, weak as they are? A reasonable person would say no. In the Cannibal Corpse video I posted yesterday, at the beginning of the video we read the notice, “Ripped by Prince of Darkness,” and at the end there is a link to his website, MadhouseHQ. What’s more, YouTube includes the video in question in its YouTube Mix for Cannibal Corpse. And, not only that, but YouTube hosts his blog (both YouTube and Blogger are Google-owned), which is a collection of links to the likes of (the now deceased) and

What will the Feds do next? Pull the plug on YouTube? I sincerely hope not. When copyright laws are enforced, the collateral damage is too great. Instead, let’s try to grow a voluntary culture of respect. Respect for the productive. Respect for the artists. Embed their videos, but also buy their CDs and buy their merchandise. That’s fair use.

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