More Media Companies Realizing That They Can Profit From 'Pirated' Content On YouTube

from the about-freakin'-time dept

Pretty much every day or so, we end up getting into a debate somewhere in the comments here on Techdirt concerning the rather important distinctions between “theft” and “copyright infringement.” While there are a bunch (the lack of a “loss” on the part of the owner being a big one), one important one is that you don’t see anyone choosing on purpose to allow theft of their own products in order to boost their business — yet, we see folks purposely choosing to allow copyright infringement to boost their own business models all the time.

In fact, the NY Times notes that a growing number of media companies have stopped sending takedown notices to YouTube, preferring to use the videos on YouTube as a part of their business model. Google has helped them out in this manner by allowing copyright holders to “claim” videos that they did not upload, and choose to share in the revenue created by ads, rather than requiring a takedown. Among those who have stopped doing takedowns entirely are CBS, Universal Music, Lionsgate and Electronic Arts. Universal Music is a bit surprising, given how it’s been even more adamant than any of the other major record labels concerning how evil copyright infringement is. The NYT’s is surprised by CBS’s involvement, given that it’s the sister company of Viacom, who is famously suing YouTube for $1 billion. Yet, CBS has always been much more open to YouTube, recognizing that if its shows were being uploaded, that was a sign of having a lot of fans, not something to be shut down.

The president of digital media at Lionsgate makes the point pretty clearly. saying that the company:

?[Doesn’t] like the idea of keeping fans of our products from being able to engage with our content. For the most part, people who are uploading videos are fans of our movies. They’re not trying to be evil pirates, and they’re not trying to get revenue from it.”

If only others would recognize this simple fact. Of course, a good starting point would be recognizing that copyright infringement isn’t “theft.”

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Companies: cbs, ea, google, lionsgate, universal music, youtube

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Comments on “More Media Companies Realizing That They Can Profit From 'Pirated' Content On YouTube”

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27 Comments
ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Loss leader

It could be argued that a ‘loss leader’ is a sort of “sanctioned theft to build business,” but your larger point is sound.

Youtube’s implementation is a bit odd, though. It searches for video OR audio matches. I’m not sure how it handles multiple claims. (I did have one so ‘claimed,’ but only by one party. I made it a private vid to make the point moot.)

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Loss leader

“How can a rational individual truthfully believe that being given something by a vendor is equivalent to theft?”

Because the effect doesn’t depend upon the intent of the vendor. If I’m make more money because I’m giving something away, and you make more money because part of your inventory is being “stolen,” you’re still making more money. Period.

Little details says:

It's not "infringement" if they're giving it away

Techdirt continues to dumb down the discussuion by continuing to gloss over some very important distinctions: it’s not “infringement” if the content owner is OK with it.

It’s shoplifting to walk off with a candy bar that a store charges for. It’s not shoplifting to walk off with the very same candy bar if the store is giving it away as a promotion. But you would never say “stores are realizing that it’s profitable to promote shoplifting.” No, you’d say “stores are using giveaways as a promotion device.” Amazingly enough, the exact same langauge works online.

Please, Techdirt, find a dictionary somewhere in your offices and learn how to use it.

some old guy (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's not "infringement" if they're giving it away

It is unauthorized. The content owners did NOT give permission to consumers to redistribute the media.

They are more or less… ignorizing it. They can ignore the unauthorizedness of the distribution AND claim some cash from it. It is piracy, and it is helping them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It's not "infringement" if they're giving it away

Trent Reznor uploaded his own content to a torrent. He placed it under a share-alike liscence. That’s not authorized?

You’re right, MOST music on most torrents are not authorized. But this thread started because Little Details noted that it’s incorrect to say that anyone’s profitting from infringment, because if the author is OK with it isn’t infringment.

Still, I think it can be argued that artists are benefitting from piracy, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's not "infringement" if they're giving it away

LOL … good point.

This also points out the biggest distinction to me regarding whether infringement is “okay” – consent of the rights holder.

When Trent Reznor stands up and says “steal my music” that is one thing, but when smaller artists lose out on sales due to people downloading *to avoid paying* then that is quite another. I do not consider it wrong to download to evaluate but a line must be drawn – buy what you listen to and like and then a lot of these arguments are non-starters…

mobiGeek says:

Re: Re: It's not "infringement" if they're giving it away

But you’ve just made the argument even more complicated. You are saying it is okay to download for “sampling”, but that the work must be purchased “if you like it”.

So now we need to define “sampling” and “like it”.

What if I don’t like it and delete it…but it remains in my “Recycling Bin” and/or browser cache?

What if I download it to “sample” it multiple times?

etc…

hegemon13 says:

Re: It's not "infringement" if they're giving it away

I was just getting ready to make the same point about it not being infringement when the artist provides it. That is definitely an error in this article.

However, you then go on the make the same stale argument, comparing copyright infringement to theft. The reason Mike would never say “stores are realizing that it’s profitable to promote shoplifting” is because of the very distinction he pointed out: loss on the part of the owner. He would never say it because a store would never profit by promoting shoplifting.

mobiGeek says:

Re: It's not

it’s profitable to promote shoplifting

Nice redirection. No one is saying that it is profitable to promote shoplifting, nor to promote copyright infringement.

But when it comes to distribution of copies of an infinite resource, the copies themselves promote other sales opportunities. You get to sample a copied work, and now you want more of that work (concert, books, autographs, underwear, etc…).

Shoplifting does the exact opposite. No one wants to go buy more stuff from a store because they successfully shoplifted from it.

nonuser says:

Re: Re: It's not

Shoplifting does the exact opposite. No one wants to go buy more stuff from a store because they successfully shoplifted from it.

Uh OK, but now people are motivated to buy records from musicians whose recordings they have successfully “infringed”?

Why should they? If it’s morally justifiable to illegally download 12 songs of Band X, why not get their entire recorded output the same way?

Cabal (profile) says:

Re: It's not "infringement" if they're giving it away

Ex Post Facto approval is NOT approval. The company was not aware of the information being posted at the time of post. Only companies who are vigilant identify the infringement after the fact. It REMAINS an infringing clip until it is officially sanctioned.

To use your analogy, if I walk off with promotional material that wasn’t explicitly given to me… that’s THEFT.

For those that aren’t actively pursuing content, it remains infringement. Just because you borrow my stuff and I don’t know, doesn’t mean that I’m happy about it.
In that sense, in order for it to be considered legal content, the content owner AND the content poster need to communicate posting rights BEFORE the posting.

anon says:

Clearly you guys haven't been paying attention...

“Universal Music is a bit surprising, given how it’s been even more adamant than any of the other major record labels concerning how evil copyright infringement is.”

Universal Music’s YouTube channel is one of the best. They’ve done everything right – timely content, allowing comments, uploading a huge back catalog. They have nearly 5000 music videos uploaded now!

It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve embraced YouTube even further. Kudos to them.

Peter Blaise Monahon (profile) says:

Earlier: People who copy and upload copyrighted material to world-popular web sharing sites “… they’re not trying to get revenue from it …”

And that’s the point seen by the copyright holder, and the basis for their “benevolent” decision. The copyright law is the vehicle supporting the copyright holder’s ability to make choices, in this case, to co-opt the upload. Without copyright law, they couldn’t claim it as their own. There’s nothing wrong with copyright law, and copyright law is unrelated to business models, as illustrated here. The copyright holder chose an alternate business model, but that alternate business model was not forced upon them by any law, nor should it be just because digital copying is easy.

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