Wednesday, October 11, 2006

All content must ultimately be paid for

Yet there is also a more sinister reason why Google is buying YouTube. It is to do with the fact that the two have a common set of business values in the sense that neither seems to care a fig about the law of copyright. Both rely on the use of free content to drive their business. They therefore have next to no cost, or at least one so marginal that it wouldn't be recognised by any traditional media company.

Google is the most talked-about business phenomenon of recent times. Its founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, are feted wherever they go like demi-gods for the wealth they have created and the revolution in business and lifestyles they have helped bring about. No doubt a great deal of this is justified, but I'm still not wholly convinced Google is a proper business. As a sustainable business model, it may even in time prove to be as transitory as the online gaming sites, many of which have been trounced by confirmation of what investors and users chose to ignore - that online gaming is illegal in the US.

Google and YouTube are based on a not dissimilar misapprehension. OK, so both are only too happy to remove content where breach of copyright can be demonstrated, but they are extraordinarily aggressive in the manner in which they attack the soft underbelly of intellectual property rights, and their basic philosophy is that all content should be free.

Insulated from the real world by their newly found billions, it must be nice for Messrs Brin and Page to think this is true. In fact, all content, like any other form of produce, must ultimately be paid for, and if all Google is doing is acting as a supermarket for, or an aggregator of, other people's stolen goods, then in the long run it might have something of a problem.

Google and YouTube are routinely in massive breach of copyright. The fact that this seems to be tolerated is almost as odd as the phenomenon itself of one of the world's most admired companies being based on such a legally dubious business model. Yet the legal challenge to Google has so far been half-hearted.

At YouTube, some of the music majors have adopted the view that if you cannot beat them you must join them, and signed up to revenue-sharing deals on anything that might be generated by their material. E
ven so, breach of copyright remains the core issue for any business that relies on file sharing. Google and YouTube do just that. Napster and some of the other file-sharing sites that devastated the music industry have been defeated. Google and YouTube have yet to be similarly challenged.

It makes perfect sense for Google to buy YouTube. Based on similar philosophies, the two fit together like hand in glove. But the valuations are powerfully reminiscent of the mistakes that were made in the original dot.com boom seven or eight years back. The thinking relies on the idea that the wheel has in some way been reinvented - and that the traditional laws of business have been suspended. You'll forgive my scepticism.

Jeremy Warner talks a lot of sense in today's Independent.

Nice Google logo from the very stylish French blog La République des Livres. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
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7 comments:

Pliable said...

Jeremy Warner is not alone in his thinking. The following is one of many comments posted on the YouTube site since the deal:

Take the money and run like heck! You've made a bundle of money off other people's work and copyrighted material. Move to another country so you can keep your money safe from the lawyers that will be coming after you. USA1Mac

Henry Holland said...

I go to YouTube often to watch, say, REM doing Radio Free Europe on Top of the Pops in 1983, but I've never once watched those vids of people doing weird things or doing bad karaoke in their bedrooms that seem to get millions of hits.

Obviously, in the case of the REM clip, that's blatant copyright violation. If Joe Smith from Neasden puts a video of himself doing something stupid on there, is that a copyright violation? I was under the impression that Joe Smith signs away his rights when he agrees to post it on there.

Is there any study that's been done about which % of the stuff on YouTube is of the REM variety and which is the Joe in Neasden?

jodru said...

hey, talk about copyright infringement...

anyone reading this post would think it's yours unless they happened to click through the link to the Independent article and make it to the fifth paragraph.

Pliable said...

You found me out Jodru, I really wanted to pass that piece off as my own work.

But the author acknowledgement and link to the original article just slipped in by accident.

As did these words at the foot of the post: Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only.

Henry Holland said...

Jodru brings up a point though, Pliable. I've been coming here for ages, so I know that when something is in Arial font, it's being quoted and that your comments are in Times New Roman font. Newcomers might not catch that though, maybe blocking the stuff you're quoting like this:

__________________

American minimalism is a plague on the musical landscape and should not be encouraged in any way shape or form
__________________

might help.

jodru said...

Roger that.

I'm a big fan of the Overgrown Path, and I always wondered how you posted so voluminously. Now, I know.

Pliable said...

Over the past two years this blog has developed its own distinctive format for presenting what are hopefully thought provoking articles. In some cases that format involves reading to the end of the fifth paragraph to find the source of a quote. This takes considerally less than the 10' 58" maximum attention span integral to YouTube.

This method of copyright attribution (which is always rigorously followed) is well accepted, and even praised by the sources of the quotes. Check these links for the views of authors whose books have been quoted here, here, and here, and these links for the views of national newspapers who are the source of many extracts, read here what The Times says, and the Guardian here.

I always value reader feedback and take it into account. I write On An Overgrown Path to stimulate and challenge, and will continue to do that.

Thanks for the feedback, comments on Google and YouTube now very welcome.