One recent story that's gotten a lot of press that I have not yet passed along was the decision this past week for YouTube to remove 29,549 videos of Japanese media after receiving requests from The Japan Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers. The Associated Press began reporting on this last Friday, when YouTube acquiesced to the demand to remove clips of music videos, films and television programs from Japan.
The reaction has been widespread across the blogosphere but demonstrates the long-term defense from the company. When journalism Robert Tur filed his lawsuit against YouTube for sharing his work, they claimed that they did not police content but would remove anything that caused a viable challenge of copyright violation. We've seen this battle again and again, with Universal, Time-Warner, etc.
Last month, Akiko Kashiwagi with Newsweek International wrote that "YouTube is shaking the staid world of Japanese broadcasters. When Japanese Internet ventures like Rakuten and Livedoor have tried to buy TV stations for their content, they've been swatted down by big media companies. But the popularity of YouTube, which limits videos to a few minutes, has caught broadcasters by surprise, and so far remains beyond their reach." It appears they've found a way to reach YouTube, though, and that's with the help of their big brother. Kashiwagi wrote, "It will be interesting to see how long this conversation can survive, in a country that has been hard on Internet innovators." Indeed.
The reaction across the Internet has brought up several points in relation to these issues. We have to wonder whether Google will acquiesce to these claims increasingly out of fear of lawsuits now that it has plans to be the corporate backer and owner of YouTube. In other words, now that a company with major capital behind it is in control of YouTube, will they be much more willing to sacrifice the users' content in the face of any fear of legal action? Google's CEO says they will use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for these types of situations.
The Japanese industry's suggestion was that YouTube should create an intermediary stage of posting videos where the company can make sure no illegal content is posted to the site. Ken Fisher with ARS Technica writes points out that some copyright holders have been upset at having to do this policing jobs for themselves. Yet, while there might be an argument that the company might have an impetus to be a better corporate cog now that it is part of Google, Fisher also points out the other problem--Will YouTube be interesting stripped of its user-driven focus?
The bloggers at Our-Picks say, "They are going to be integrated among all the other Google Web Services. They can't afford a wave of law suits due copywritten materials right now" (sic).
Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek writes that "video-sharing sites that have built their audiences on both user-generated content and copyrighted material are now staring down a parade of potential lawsuits for copyright violations." Further, she points out that these videos have been very popular on YouTube and has led to a strong Japanese user base.
An interesting debate, and the plethora of lawsuits and success of the Japanese pressure on YouTube indicate that we're only seeing the beginning of this argument.