YouTube’s New Business Model for Copyrighted Music
Posted Sep 26, 2008

YouTube recently enacted an innovative approach to handling synchronization rights to copyrighted music. Rather than remove videographers’ clips that contain unlicensed music (which are now a very common occurrence on YouTube and other user-generated content sites), the site is pairing advertising for the music labels with the video clips.

In Cape Town, South Africa, WEVA member and regular Howard Neill received an email from YouTube, where he had posted several wedding video clips. The email refers to UMG (Universal Music Group) and states that YouTube’s policy is to "place advertisements on this video’s watch page." If you want to track what ads appear with Neill’s videos, his YouTube account name is "CapeVideos." Here’s what the email stated:

Dear YouTube Member: UMG has claimed some or all audio content in your video The Wedding of Sian & Stu. This claim was made as part of the YouTube Content Identification program. Your video is still live because UMG has authorized the use of this content on YouTube. As long as UMG has a claim on your video, they will receive public statistics about your video, such as number of views. Viewers may also see advertising on your video’s page. UMG claimed this content as a part of the YouTube Content Identification program. YouTube allows partners to review YouTube videos for content to which they own the rights. Partners may use our automated video/audio matching system to identify their content, or they may manually review videos.
The YouTube Content Identification Team

Here is a press release from UMG on YouTube’s press page:

‘Universal is committed to finding innovative ways to distribute our artists’ works and today’s agreement with YouTube furthers that strategy by helping transform this new user-generated content culture into a mutually beneficial business opportunity,’ said Doug Morris, Chairman and CEO, Universal Music Group, ‘We pride ourselves in empowering new business models that create new revenue streams for content creators. You Tube is providing a new and exciting opportunity for music lovers around the world to interact with our content, while at the same time recognizing the intrinsic value of the content that is so important to the user experience.’

Since we spoke to Neill about this situation we've seen various ads on the page, including one for wedding rings and, more recently, one for an ethanol gas-related nonprofit.

YouTube lets visitors easily report alleged copyright violators—maybe too easily. They have a link called "report profile image violation." I clicked it out of curiosity, and rather than going to a page for detail, I got a response that said, "thank you for reporting this violation." YouTube also has a similar link on some users’ pages titled "report background graphic."

Stu Sweetow (sweetow at runs Oakland, CA-based video production company Audio Visual Consultants. He taught video production at UC Berkeley Extension, was associate editor of Wedding and Event Videography, and was a contributing editor to Camcorder & Computer Video magazine.