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Copyfight – Forget YouTube?

Sanjay Sharma | darkmatter: Blog | Oct 2007

There are many ‘web2.0′ video sharing/hosting sites these days, though YouTube (YT) reigns supreme. Now owned by Google, YT is becoming the search site for video.

However, if you’re intending to upload your own video, there are some serious restrictions when using YT. Not only is there a limit to the length of material, but YT’s Terms & Conditions (see especially point 6) leave a lot to be desired.

A comparison between different video sharing sites indicates that YT doesn’t allow Creative Commons licensing and has way-too-liberal rights to reuse your content. (Though according to this post it’s possible to use creative commons with YouTube, though this hasn’t been made public?) More specifically, as argued in a boing boing article – which has now been deleted?1 – by Xeni Jardin, the intentions of how YT may use uploaded content is questionable.

In response, Jennifer Nielsen, Marketing Manager for YT, wrote:

YouTube never intended to sell, and never obtained any rights to sell, any User Submissions on CD or other physical media. The sentence you quoted was intended to enable YouTube to syndicate all or part of our website through third party websites (including to enable our embed functionality), in mobile contexts, and similar types of syndication …

And from YT’s blog entry:

For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your User Submissions. However, 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, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the YouTube Website (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels. You also hereby grant each user of the YouTube Website a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Website, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such User Submissions as permitted through the functionality of the Website and under these Terms of Service. The foregoing license granted by you terminates once you remove or delete a User Submission from the YouTube Website.

There’s been a some controversy over how to interpret YT Terms of Use, but the following blogger views cited by Jardin on a Valleywag post seem valid to me:

{YouTube does} have a TOU that effectively forces users to remove their content in order to know they completely control what happens with their video/images/music. If you want your full rights, the way to enforce ownership is to delete your videos from the service. (Violet Blue)

The fact that YouTube is not required to alert you to when they use your content, means that they can use your content before you can remove it. It’s kinda moot to remove it from the site after they’ve already used it. (Van Buskirk)

In essence, it’s a video uploader handing over commercial reuse rights over to YT that’s problematic.

So what’s an alternative?

For video sharing/social networking, there are other choices (though some of these have dubious/puerile user-content). If you intend to preserve your work on-line and want full control of ‘rights’ over its (re)distribution and reproduction, then the Internet Archive (IA) is (almost) the way forward. Some features/benefits:

  • upload video of any length
  • automatically converts (and compresses) video to popular formats including flash
  • plays videos on-line [sometimes]
  • creative commons licensing
  • allows a link back to your originating web-site
  • embed flash video directly on your own site [doesn't always work]

For the darkmatter Journal (which I co-edit, and created with WordPress) we store videos on the IA, which enables the video to be publicly archived and always available/downloadable.

The intention was also to embed our IA stored videos for direct on-line viewing on darkmatter, which would save on our precious server storage and bandwidth.2 It would be a neat solution, if it worked. The problem is that IA so far hasn’t been reliable for direct streaming video. (Although works fine for streaming audio files)

[EDIT 13/03/09] For embedding video in darkmatter, currently we’re using divShare. blip.tv. It has creative commons option! It’s free, offers unlimited storage space and seems to work well for direct streaming.

While divShare doesn’t have the massive social networking/search features of YT, as a video host it nonetheless offers a solid streaming solution. Yet its T&Cs could do with a re-write to indicate more clearly that they don’t retain any rights over uploaded content. An email query to divShare requesting clarification elicited this helpful reply:

We do not retain any ownership over the files uploaded to the site — nor do we reproduce or distribute, or provide any public search directory for these files.

It would be interesting to hear about what other users do with storing their off-site video content.

UPDATE [7 Mar 2008]: divshare embedded video doesn’t seem to be working well these days


Notes
1See the referring article More on YouTube’s controversial new terms and conditions: UPDATED
2 IA converts video uploads to flash, and embedded flash viewing on darkmattter can be done using a WordPress plugin, eg. viper. Flash is the most popular and browser-friendly video format.


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