Look Who’s Sleeping With You(Tube)

OMG! UMG is not gonna sue YouTube as threatened last month? Is YouTube pinned or just happy to share the bed? Today’s New York Times pulls back the covers:

Three of the four major music companies — Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Sony and Bertelsmann’s jointly owned Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and the Warner Music Group — each quietly negotiated to take small stakes in YouTube as part of video- and music-licensing deals they struck shortly before the sale, people involved in the talks said yesterday. The music companies collectively stand to receive as much as $50 million from these arrangements, these people said.

This payoff will certainly materialize faster than any potential compensation from a lawsuit would. But the possible catch — doesn’t part-ownership also entail liability for any future content-related lawsuits filed against YouTube?

Earlier this week, Universal sued video-sharing portals Grouper and Bolt, demanding 15 grand per infringement and telling the press:

“Grouper and Bolt… cannot reasonably expect to build their business on the backs of our content and the hard work of our artists and songwriters without permission and without compensating the content creators,” a Universal spokesman said.

Yeah, I’m sure they’re worried about 50 Cent appearing on a mini-YouTube or Mariah Carey being compensated (doesn’t she have like a $20M contract)?

Last month it seemed Universal woke up thinking it was still 1999, only big mama RIAA is at bay (or, more likely, abusing the courts and/or high school kids).

Will there be more juicy details on this YouTube + Big 3 of 4 so-called partnership? Or is the new YouTube opaque?

GooTube: Impending Doom? For Users, Maybe

In the same breath as pocketing a cool $1.65B in Google stock, licensing and copyright-protection agreements were made with the likes of Warner, Sony/BMG, Universal, CBS (it’s looking like one singular beast of a media mongrel at this point).

You Tube has been all the rage for it’s year-and-a-half existence, but — isn’t YouTube’s success primarily a result of its lax oversight and takedown policies? Surely, Chad Hurley and his couple dozen of employees at You Tube don’t care anymore — as long as they sell their Google stock in the near future. But once you can’t get anything you want on You Tube, the traffic will most naturally channel itself elsewhere.

Alex Veiga wrote about this today for the AP, and the article‘s a good read, complete with a variety of quotes. The basic drift is:

[R]ecent agreements with high-profile content creators require YouTube to deploy an audio-signature technology that can spot a low-quality copy of a licensed music video or other content. YouTube would have to substitute an approved version of the clip or take the material down automatically.

Veiga predicts that YouTube’s anti-piracy platform will resemble the nightmare watermarking techniques of Audible Magic. Competitor Guba uses content-comparison software called “Johnny” to filter out copyright infgingements on videos uploaded there.

CJR’s Gal Beckerman says the deal is “doomed just because it is.” YouTubers are “gravely concerned,” summarizes another article.

The real winners here are the VC’s, like Sequoia Capital, which invested 11 million into YouTube and come out of the deal with a whole lot more, writes Staci of Paid Content.

Sure, Google and YouTube will most likely come out OK. The real losers, however, are the users — that is to say everyone save for the handful of jackasses makin a mean living by hording and raping other people’s property (not the kind of OPP that any content producer or consumer would be down with).

Is Google lining up to be the darling sweetheart of government-sponsored corporate Internet ownership? Google does publish a little one-sheet guide to Net Neutrality, deep in their help section). I’m guessing there aren’t many Save the Internet badges floating around Mountain View.

(Apparently you’ll never find out what’s going on at Google if you’re using Yahoo Maps). Which reminds me of a prank Yahoo! pulled when they launched their new Maps beta last year. The address for Google was listed as “The Dude’s Fish Store.” It’s hilarious — read about it here. Perhaps the grey boxes on Y!Maps are just retribution.)

Warner to Send Videos Thru YouTube

woutube is warner plus youtubeIn a potentially groundbreaking move for the music / entertainment industry, Warner Music Group is set to announce an deal to distribute copyrighted content through the video upload/download/streaming megahub, YouTube.

Details are still emerging, but interesting provisions have already been leaked regarding the preemption of inevitable remixing and mashing. YouTube has apparently developed royalty-tracking software that promises to “detect when homemade videos are using copyrighted material.” Somehow, the technology will enable Warner to maintain ownership control and “review the video and decide whether it wants to approve or reject it.”

“Technology is changing entertainment, and Warner Music is embracing that innovation,” said Warner Music Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. “Consumer-empowering destinations like YouTube have created a two-way dialogue that will transform entertainment and media forever.”

An interesting twist to a weekend that began with Universal Music Group’s head, Doug Morris, flat-out cursing out YouTube and similar Web sites as “copyright infringers.”

Read the entire A.P. article (source).

MORE: TechCrunch, PaidContent. Buy the rumor, sell upon the news?

UPDATE: NYT’s article quotes Sonific CEO Gerd Leonhard:

“The record companies are realizing their game is completely lost in terms of controlling the market,” Mr. Leonhard said. “Digital sales aren’t picking up as they should. If they don’t play ball now, they’re going to sit by themselves while everyone else is using their content for nothing.”

PLUS: Peter Kafka in Forbes on the adolescence of YouTube.

Universal Threatens to Sue YouTube, MySpace

No surprise here. As if NBC/Vivendi/Universal is not already getting enough free pub and promotion from the UGC-oriented social networking and video sharing Web sites alone, now they’re getting double the love after threatening to sue YouTube and MySpace over copyright violations.

Universal Media Group Exec Doug Morris: “We believe these new businesses are copyright infringers and owe us tens of millions of dollars.”

Making the issue sound even more ridiculous, Morris proceeds to say Universal is just adapting from experience, saying: MTV “built a multibillion-dollar company on our (music) … for virtually nothing. We learned a hard lesson.”

This is a blatant misunderstanding of the law, as the infringers would be arguably those who download the music/video, not the sites that unknowingly host it (and would be quick to remove it, at least in the case of YouTube, if an argument was filed).

Does Morris blame FM radio for coming along and broadcasting cuts from records other than or in addition to the singles he pays them to play? I do wonder.

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