Viacom versus YouTube: How Video Killed the TV Star

Okay so YouTube has won a bit of the battle against Viacom and since Viacom started it, that must hurt. I’m no expert on the legalities of video piracy so I refer you to Hank to explain the situation.

Now you’ve seen that (and if you haven’t) you should be clear that Viacom wants “loadsamoney”

Harry Enfield as the 80s money worshipper - Loadsamoney!

for the broadcast of clips that might be considered to be uploaded in breach of copyright and YouTube do not object to the principle of paying, but not $1 billion. I think this is basically the difference between Viacom wanting to charge a fee for broadcasting the clips and Youtube regarding the clips as a form of advertising and still being willing to pay, but not so much, on the basis that most clips act, pretty much like ads or trailers.

Needless to say I vote with YouTube, and I do that partly because I am an educator. I am a bit bored with the fact that the job of teaching teenagers, for not such a great fee, is made over complicated and increasingly angst ridden by the conflicting demands of having to educate using technology, but living in fear of a breach copyright. Make no mistake the institutions will hang the educator out to dry if the individual gets it wrong and claiming that you did not know you had caused a breach will not be an excuse. After all, as was once said to me by some Kenyan policemen, when they arrested us for not standing up when the flag was lowered at 6pm “Ignorance is no defence in the law!” Come to think of it, that situation and the behaviour of the big corporations are not dissimilar. They criminalise the ordinary citizen for something they do not realise they are doing and for a crime that is not a crime in the moral sense of the word. Then, they want money to assuage the situation.

Over the years I must have recommended (and thereby sold) any number of copies of the various films we have studied. I, and others like me, have introduced an audience to various TV series, most recently Dexter, before that the doomed but much loved Firefly and The Riches. The Usual Suspects has become the favourite film of many of my students, and, as they grow up they will no doubt, remember their teacher’s enthusiasm, for The Sopranos and The Wire. No one’s ever paid me a fee for this work I do on behalf of the creators of content, in fact I have had to navigate through a nightmare of grey areas. Students have uploaded their video texts (music videos/thriller opening sequences/trailers) to their own sites and have taken responsibility themselves for the fact that their use of music may be in breach of copyright, so far little has happened other than a cease and desist. As a consequence we are shifting away from music video, as an educational exercise and heading to other forms, where it is easier for them to originate, or use music offered under CC license. But how does this benefit the companies or the artist, these students’ music video has achieved over 57,000 views, yes maybe they are benefiting from someone else’s work, but this tune has sure been heard by a great many people because of the video. It seems that the new world of sharing does not object to subscription or payment, or even advertising on a site, click through is a great invention, but $1billion? The maths (math for those in the US) can be worked out differently, as this Vlogbrother suggests.

What the corporations seem to have forgotten is that art is a community creation. In the first instance at least, artists don’t create for money. Hell I don’t write for money, I’m not even sure I write for readers! I write because I love it, if nobody else loves it, fine. If I could make some money out of it, also fine, but not at the cost of the contribution I make to the culture. If I had become a bestselling author at twenty (which Virago then promised I would be) if I had films made of my work, would I have thought differently? Would I have wanted to have everything paid and accounted for, to the extent that no once could share my work? I hope not.

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2 responses to “Viacom versus YouTube: How Video Killed the TV Star

  1. Judith,
    I’ve often thought that my British Cinema module should be sponsored by Film Four. It might skew the content a little but, hey, if they give me a t-shirt to wear with the Film Four logo on it and enough video clips to carry me through each lecture, I’ll live with it.

    I even started a blog to accompany the module – you know the way we’re always being encouraged to think of new and innovative ways to engage students. But after a conversation with a university apparatchik about the possible copyright implications and complications, I just dropped the idea. It sound like a minefield.

    Your last paragraph struck a chord with me. In another, earlier life I was a singer/songwriter. I was never successful. I think I made about 200 quid in a two year career. I probably could have made a little more but I rather perversely went out of my way to be contrary and avoid the music industry. I was committed to the notion that music should be free at the point of delivery – like the NHS. (Ahhh, the idealism of youth.)

    I was asked recently by a colleague whether I thought illegal downloading was killing music. ‘No’, I said without giving it much thought, ‘it’ll hopefully kill the music industry and good riddance to it. Music just goes on for ever!’ When I thought about my reply later I congratulated myself on still being ‘punk’ after all these years – 4 real, maaan.

    Like

    • I have many music biz friends – some have done well – but knowing them all – made it very clear to me that talent is not the only thing you need to succeed in the “industry”. The fact that the internet has made all that more accessible has stopped that mantra “if you’re any good you’ll make it”. Everyone knows now what a con that was!

      Like

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