Taking the Copyright Initiative

Article ImageIt may be important for user-generated content (UGC)/search provider GooTube to reach out to major copyright owners in order to avoid major lawsuits. But it's equally important for content producers to take some initiative and secure rights management into their content as well.

"If Google is successful at signing agreements with major copyright owners, the copyright lawsuits will be there but they will likely be small and one lawsuit at a time," says Barry Cohen, a Pennsylvania-based IP attorney. According to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), internet service providers (ISPs) are not liable for copyright infringement just because they transmit information over the internet. "Google may have safeguards under the DMCA," says Cohen, "and as long as Google is reaching out to these major copyright owners, it's protecting itself." 

One analyst says that this approach to reach out to copyright owners is a good short-term solution to copyright infringement. "In the short run, the approach that Google is taking—trying to negotiate licensing deals with major video sources for their use on YouTube—is a reasonable starting point for media companies to work with YouTube as a new channel for content," explains John Blossom, president and senior analyst with Shore Communications, Inc., a consulting and research services firm. 

The long-run paints "a more problematic picture." Blossom says, "As video producers strive constantly for technological innovation to improve quality and features, the issue of rights management continues to be put aside in favor of other competitive advantages." 

While Blossom believes that copyright laws in and of themselves are not likely to change, it's more likely that content producers will find different ways to manage their rights under copyright law. "As user-distributed content begins to show up in new venues, demand for licensed versions of that content triggered by advanced rights management services will enable either automatic rights licensing transactions or alerts that enable content producers to respond to opportunities for licensed use in valuable contexts," says Blossom. In other words, as UGC becomes a more burgeoning enterprise for content producers, the focus will shift from content producers just putting content out there to putting content out there and making sure it's secure. 

By 2010, the volume of downloads/views on UGC sites such as YouTube and MySpace will exceed $65 billion, and revenues tied to UGC video are expected to exceed $850 million, according to a September study conducted by In-Stat, a provider of research, market analysis, and forecasts of communication services.

As a result of the forecasted UGC boom, it will be increasingly more difficult for copyright owners to police their content found on content producers' sites. "Insisting on content removal is a reasonable tool which is far from perfect but establishes a level of frustration that will discourage people from making the effort to post in the first place," says Blossom. 

As of this writing, GooTube did not have a solution for UGC to co-exist with piracy. "Google's talking about implementing software that filters out copyrighted information," says Cohen. 

Beyond these short-term solutions to copyright owners living, at least harmoniously, with copyright infringement, Blossom says it's more important for content producers to see the value in protecting their content. "When people get a sense that they are getting good value out of rights-managed content," adds Blossom, "their resistance to the service will decrease." 

(www.google.com; www.youtube.com)