Monday, February 7, 2011

Broadcast Yourself (Sometimes)

YouTube started as a place to “broadcast yourself” and has subsequently become the place to broadcast every song ever made. YouTube claims to have copyright rules and stipulates that only user-created content may be uploaded. When uploading a video, YouTube displays an “important message,” which states, "do not upload any TV shows, music videos, music concerts, or commercials without permission unless they consist entirely of content you created yourself...and that you own all copyrights in this video or have authorization to upload it." Unfortunately, there is no rhyme or reason in regards to what content is deemed permissible and what is considered an infringement that must be taken down.

Any album you can think of has been uploaded in its entirety. Brand new albums are uploaded many times before they are released commercially. Music videos can easily be found, albeit to a lesser extent. In the past, even television shows were uploaded, but YouTube seems to enforce television copyright more stringently. But why? Why are they such sticklers for television content, but not for music? At least show some consistency.

YouTube’s irregular copyright policies aside, I don’t think music or television content should be uploaded and listened to/viewed for free. Perhaps music is not taken down because it is treated like radio and cannot be downloaded(without a plug-in that is). However, I do believe the use of a video clip or a song should be allowed in videos that users upload. YouTube is a place for people to share the videos they make with the rest of the world. These videos range from short films, spoofs, and babies mispronouncing words like “fire truck.” If someone wants to include a song as background music in their video, they should be allowed to do that. If someone wants to create a music video with clips from their favorite television show, they should be allowed to do that. Using music and video clips in this way contributes to creating new content altogether—effectively a “remix.”

For some incomprehensible reason, it is perfectly acceptable for full albums to exist on the YouTube, but remixed content continues to be taken down due to copyright infringement.

Uploading an entire music album does not change that content in any way. All it does it provide an artist’s work to the public for free, which essentially dissuades people from paying for it. Conversely, remixed content is something entirely new. Music and accompanying sounds are an integral part of a video. Try watching Psycho without the music to see what I mean. Most people are unable to write original music to include in a video’s background, and instead use the scores from movies, games, or other artists. For this type of use, digital copyright law needs to be revised. At the very least YouTube needs to apply some common sense in what they decide is an infringement or not.

I have uploaded multiple videos in the past couple of years. Because I am not a musician, I didn't write any of the music in my videos. Technically, YouTube states that I cannot include any of the music that I did not personally create. If that’s the case, what am I supposed to include? I have always added instrumental background music from movies and games to add to the intensity of a situation or set a mood. In one video in particular, I set the ending credits to an instrumental version of T.I.'s "Big Things Poppin." Because the video was about a nerdy high school math teacher, the song seemed ironic and funny.

YouTube decided that the inclusion of the song was so egregious that they removed all of the audio from the video, rendering it unwatchable. I had to take it down, and re-upload it without the music. Who, I ask, is watching a high school comedy with a mere 5,000 views and deciding that the end credits are a violation of YouTube’s terms of use, but then looks the other way on the Taylor Swift song with 8 million views uploaded by “XoTaYlOrIsMyAnGeL378Xo?” In situations like these I am truly baffled by how YouTube enforces copyright infringement. All I’m asking for is some consistency.

The purpose of YouTube is to broadcast yourself—to display content to the rest of the world. If some people can rip the entire album of an artist's music without remixing it, or changing it in any way, it stands to reason that you should at least be able to use a song or a clip in your video.

1 comment:

  1. It does seem strange about the way music is handled. Maybe the music industry allows the straightforward videos because they see it as promoting their wares, whereas using and playing with them is seen as taking advantage?