Tuesday, February 06, 2007

YouTube, Copyright, and the Democractic Way

Like many people I have become enamored of YouTube. I was introduced to it by way of SNL's Lazy Sunday (Chronicles of Narnia rap) digital short which was sent to me by an old boyfriend. By the way, I was just on YouTube and couldn't find Lazy Sunday anywhere. I was, however, able to find a whole bunch of parodies of it. More on that later.

This leads me an interesting aspect about YouTube: copyright issues. One of the things I love about Blogger.com, YouTube.com, craigslist.org and the internet in general is that it's democratic. This means I am free to get my blog on and say whatever the hell I want to say to a small audience of folks, some of who come here occasionally and some who stumble upon this blog by accident. If I want I can shoot a digital short and post it on YouTube and I can go on craiglist.org and look for/place an ad about...whatever.

This ability to express myself in a huge variety of forums is nothing short of revolutionary. When was the last time you or me had the opportunity to put ourselves out into the world like this? When was the last time we could say our piece without some publishing company to tell us what's good or bad based on whether it would sell? What about music? Film? This is a big deal time we're in now, full of possibilities.

There's also a huge amount of crap out there, but it's still better to give everyone the same opportunities as long as they have a way to get on the Net and a computer.

Copyright infringement is against the law and at least some of the material up on YouTube might unauthorized copies of videos (I'm trying to be careful in how I word this sentence). And yet I can't help but think that having some of that material up in an open forum like YouTube is either enjoying a revival and/or adding to its owner's bottom line.

For example, after Lazy Sunday was up on YouTube, Saturday Night Live's ratings went up. Could this be the result of YouTube and viral marketing? Is it possible that SNL, which seemed to be in a low ebb, got a boost because everyone was talking about, emailing and laughing over Lazy Sunday? Could it be that Lazy Sunday was the best thing to come out of SNL in a long time and, because it was available in an open place like YouTube, more people were watching it and deciding that SNL might be worth checking out again?

Could be, but then again maybe not.

And what about Lazy Sunday's parodies on YouTube, or all the parodies for that matter. Why is it okay to leave them up on YouTube even if you're using the actual song Lazy Sunday? Perhaps I'm wrong and maybe it's not all right. Maybe they just haven't gotten around to taking those parodies down. Still, SNL is legendary for doing some of the best parodies out there? How does that fit into this discussion?

Just so we're clear: this is all my personal opinion. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on this blog. Or anywhere else for that matter.

The fact is everyone needs to take a good hard look at these issues. I think YouTube is awesome because I can look up just about anything (TV shows, commercials, music videos, etc. from almost time frame) and watch to my heart's content. I like this openness in the same way I like being able to write this post.

I really hope YouTube doesn't go the way of Napster. It would be a shame if it did. There has to be a way for companies to take advantage of viral marketing and open access to everyone without ruining all the fun we're having here. I mean, I got to watch James Brown sing "I Got You (I Feel Good)" in a ski sweater. Where the hell else am I going to find something like that?

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