The death of YouTube! (again)

January 15th, 2009 by Jarmo Puskala

Okay, so the death of YouTube has been prophetized more than the antichrist and alien disclosure put together and it’s about as likely to happen as those things. However if there is something that could kill YouTube it’s this.

YouTube has started muting videos that use unauthorized copyrighted music (and that pretty much means all user-created videos.)

Yeah, so the crackdown has started. For an example see Kiss from a Rose. The audio disappears and a note “saying This video contains an audio track that has not been authorised by all copyright holders” appears. It’s not known if this is being done manually by moderators or if they are using automatic recognition of music. It would seem that it’äs affecting more popular videos at the moment with less popular video of kiss from a rose are still untouched.

If this is ever truly enforced it’s going to be bad. Imagine if all videos with Yakety Sax were gone. Even some rather popular video producers have been using songs rather liberally. All in all strick enforcement would silence a very big part of YouTube.

That’s why I don’t really think it is going to happen. Probably it’s more of a scare tactic or doing the bare minimum to comply witht he demands of Lawyers. But I could be wrong.

Some more xkcd

Some xkcd to break up the text…


If it happens and YouTube goes silent then there are two possible outcomes:

1) People leave for some other video sharing site that they will inhabit until Lawyers strike that one down as well.
2) There is a fundamental change in the way user generated content works. With emphasis on the “user” part.

Now if you’re 13 and living with your mom you really can’t go on recording a symphony orchestra for your lightsaber video. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it. When the average PC was too slow to edit video those kids would have just waved around a fluorecent light and played the song from a boombox. One video site not accepting Leia’s theme is not going to stop them from fulfilling their Skywalker fantasies.

But what is there for the kid to do? Well, you could go to another site but YouTube is so big all your friends are propably there as well. So the next solution is to get around the problem somehow. You might use a panpipe version of the Imperial March and hope the system doesn’t recognise it.

..Or then somebody will come and solve the problem for them. MySpace layouts are a huge industry even though that started basicly from bad coding that allowed you to mess with the way your page looks like. However most people really don’t have the skill to do anything with the satanic spaghetti that was MySpace code – however there were a lot of people who did. Then these people started offering stuff for the masses and some of them became very rich. Now if online video hits the speedbump of copyright enforcement there’s something to be learned from this.

There are musicans aplenty and a lot of them just want their music to be heard. Now if you connect these guys to the guys who want some sound in their videos then both will win. Then have them meet the guy who likes doing lightsaber videos but is too shy to be on front of the camera. That would already be a film crew. Collaborating to create true user generated content – not users ripping existing stuff.

Now if we just had a website for collaborating on video productions we’d be very interested in seeing where this goes…

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22 Responses to “The death of YouTube! (again)”

  1. Salmar80 says:

    Great job, Jarmo, for bringing this up.

    It is a truly worrisome event.. If you read the law book with a microscope, the majority of YouTube content violates copyrights in one way or another.

    But, I find it hard to believe YouTube will go all-out with enforcing all possible copyrights.. A few high-profile videos will die, but life will go on.

    After all, leniency is the lifeblood of YouTube. And furthermore, it is not even in most copyright holders’ interest to enforce the law to the letter:

    Getting featured on YouTube videos can often be seen as free advertising, not commercially harmful copyright infringement. People hear the music or see the video for free, get interested, and spread the word.

    Ultimately many BUY the product.

    After all, when it comes to entertainment business, illegal attention is way better than oblivion, isn’t it? Nobody spends a dime on a forgotten artist. And dimes are what studios covet.

    Also, suing penniless videomakers is commercially pointless. Most user-created YouTube videos are produced with a near-zero budgets, and hardly bring any money to their makers’ pockets. Thus there exists little capital the studios could tap by enforcing their rights to full extent.

    I find it hard to believe the studios will unite to shoot down YouTube, and by doing so shoot themselves in the leg. Instead of free marketing of their products, there would be silence. And silence has always been free.


  2. [...] WHat’s clear is that there has been a major SNAFU somewhere, but where? In theory being Finnish Spinefarm would not have the right to put their artist’s songs on YouTube without permission from Teosto – the finnish royalties collection agency. But somehow I don’t think they are to blame. And even though the Nightwish videos finger WMG I’d still rather blame incompetence than malice. So has Universal Music ordered the takedown of their entire catalog and their own marketing has been caught in that? Or does this have something to do with the new copyright detection they seem to be testing? [...]

  3. Laura says:

    The YouTube team seems to be defending its latest action by arguing that in this way the users will, in fact, be having more options when uploading videos (see the team’s blog: At least based on the blog’s commentary section, not so many users are willing to buy this explanation. Instead (and not so surprisingly), it seems to be quite hard for the users to understand the purpose of mute music videos and I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that 1) people are already so used to watching and listening(!) videos on YouTube, 2) it is believed that even the ones holding the copyrights will sooner or later win from the YouTube exposure.

    It appears overall that the video sharing websites are still heavily struggling with the copyright issue and are trying to find new solutions to solve the problem, think e.g. MySpace and Auditude technology. Maybe also the users believe that this is a matter of searching answers through trials and errors and won’t give up using the sites so easily, even though not being happy with every twist and turn. But a totally mute YouTube sounds without doubt like a suicide.

    Thanks for an interesting blog,

  4. I tend to think that the muting is actually a good idea. Well, actually not a good idea, but as long as the powers that be require them to do Something it’s better than just removing the videos.

    Why? Because when a video is removed people just move on to the next. When the video stays, the links stay, the embeds stay and it all stays up as a reminder of the stupidity that lead to it.

    So it’s kind of like education.

    Also, I don’t see harm in encouraging the use of music you actually can use. That’s just ore power to the good guys. So in that I agree with the YouTube guys, the muting encourages that more than just removing the videos.

  5. Laura says:

    Good points.

    Surely muting carries more weight than simply removing the videos. And as you said Jarmo, the muting draws attention to the original problem instead of ignoring it and moving on.

    To take this all, with the wisdom of hindsight, as a lesson might truly be a wise way of thinking. Maybe the options now addressed by the YouTube team will in fact make the users realise that watching copyrighted material on (e.g.) YouTube isn’t as simple and black-and-white business as it might have seemed (or was made to seem) in its early days.

  6. [...] please, copyright lobbyists and the industry, stop with the stupid already. You have already managed to create one generation who views entertainment industry and [...]

  7. krisse says:

    I did a lot of videos with Youtube’s very own “add a soundtrack” feature, which is supposed to use officially licensed music.

    Now these too have been muted, so in effect YouTube is accusing YouTube of breaking copyright law.

  8. I would guess that’s because Warner had a deal with YouTube that allowed people to use Warner’s music on their videos. And now Warner is the one demanding all their songs be taken down because they couldn’t agree on continuing that deal – meaning they wanted more money.

    So in a way YouTube by offering the soundtracks for use and now having to take them down introduced users to the wonderful world of licensing. This is something that filmmakers have been suffering in more traditional fields. For example some documentary filmmakers can no longer distribute their films because they have licensed footage or music for a fixed time period (because of costs – unlimited license would have been insanely expensive). WHen the license runs out then it’s pretty much curtains for that documentary.

  9. [...] WHat’s clear is that there has been a major SNAFU somewhere, but where? In theory being Finnish Spinefarm would not have the right to put their artist’s songs on YouTube without permission from Teosto – the finnish royalties collection agency. But somehow I don’t think they are to blame. And even though the Nightwish videos finger WMG I’d still rather blame incompetence than malice. So has Universal Music ordered the takedown of their entire catalog and their own marketing has been caught in that? Or does this have something to do with the new copyright detection they seem to be testing? [...]

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