John C. Dvorak of “I Get No Spam” fame talks about the success of YouTube in yesterday’s Market Watch.
YouTube, the privately-held video sharing website, now delivers an estimated 100 million videos a day to its users. The site has been online for barely a year.
It’s growth rate is phenomenal and without precedent, skyrocketing into the public consciousness and becoming commonplace nearly overnight. So what do the journalists, analysts and pundits all do when they witness this moment in history? Kvetch.
Nobody actually wants to understand exactly why this happened in the first place. Instead you hear the following (and typical) Silicon Valley commentary. “How are they going to monetize it?” “It’s the dotcom bust 2.0!” “There must be a video bubble.” “They’re burning through $1.5 million a month. How can they continue?”
It’s weird but almost nobody looks at this tremendous growth curve and asks themselves, “Holy cripes! How did that happen!?!” Instead you get headlines such as “Is YouTube the next Napster?”
Apparently YouTube has stumbled on to something and perhaps we should try and understand that in itself. If and when the company manages to “monetize” (don’t you love that term?) things may change.
Dvorak, as is his wont, waxes eloquent on the ease of use of YouTube. He loves the simplicity of the process.
The first thing you notice about YouTube is the lack of barriers to entry. You can sign up quickly and upload anything in any format right away.
YouTube’s computers then transcode (convert) your files into Flash movies which can be played on any browser. They also provide a link to the video which you can email as well as some embedded code so you can post the video on your own website and play it from there.
I don’t disagree with anything that Dvorak has said, thus far. What does concern me is his lack of comment regarding YouTube’s EUA. Their End User Agreement that states (as I posted here and the Head Lemur smacked me upside the head about)
…by submitting the User Submissions to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the YouTube Website and YouTube’s (and its successor’s) business…in any media formats and through any media channels.
Now, Jason Shultz of the EFF in a BoingBoing post views YouTube’s EUA a little more dispassionately,
YouTube wants to CYA itself in case it flows into new formats with old videos, e.g., cell phone downloads. They don’t want to have to go back and relicense all the content in new mediums. And its also true that simply yanking the video will cut off all their rights, which is a powerful weapon to keep them in check.
When the Billy Bragg folks complained about MySpace, it was basically over the same issue, so now that MySpace has responded with some clarity, it might behoove YouTube to do the same.
One thing they could say is that any reproductions, distributions, derivatives, etc. that they make of your work would not be sold separately as a distinct product. This would keep them from burning CDs or DVDs and the like.
As CNET’s Aaron Newton says in the same BoingBoing article,
…looking at YouTube’s policies, they read like they want to own your soul, but in legal terms, they look very common and reasonable. Personally, I think that services like these should spell it out in plain English.
I love YouTube – and spend a little more time than necessary enjoying their hosted videos. That being said, significant more clarity around their EUA would assuage the copyright fears of many content creators.