YouTube Addresses Copyright

26th August 2009 by Maura McHugh

Wired has an interesting article on how the issue of copyright infringement on YouTube is being tackled.

Its ContentID program was initially designed to discover and delete copyrighted material from YouTube. Now, it can also compensate artists whose work is being infringed:

YouTube’s database of audio and video fingerprints is learning how to deal with the fact that the guy who added a saxophone part to a particular song deserves a certain minute percentage of revenue when the song appears in your YouTube video. When you upload a video with someone else’s song as the soundtrack, you infringe on two exclusive rights of the copyright holder: the right to to distribute the work and the right to synchronize it to video. Nobody cares.

YouTube’s database pays the saxophonist (and everyone else with a stake in the song) a percentage of ad revenue, depending on the way their contracts worked out. This explains why the JK Wedding Dance video was able to feature Chris Brown’s “Forever” without permission, without being taken down.

That said, you can’t please everyone. Warner Music Group thinks YouTube’s revenue-sharing deal is too paltry and refuses to participate. The label also has a problem with guitar-themed videogames and a longstanding quarrel with YouTube.

But Warner’s in the minority here. Other major (and independent) labels have embraced YouTube’s partner program, so that in many cases, you can put entire copyrighted songs in your videos and upload them to YouTube. Just one caveat: If it becomes a hit – as the folks behind the JK Wedding Video found out – the rights-holders of the music will get paid while you, most likely, will not.

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