Censorship

Who Killed Kenny on YouTube?

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When after all, you know it was you and me…

Actually, according to The New York Post (via USA Today's Pop Candy), it was Comedy Central, which also yanked clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report along with South Park:

When people clicked on links for [Comedy Central clips], they got a stark message: "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation."

Users of YouTube who had posted Comedy Central clips in the past said they received emails late Friday from the site informing them that, if they did it again, it would "result in the deletion of your account."

YouTube - a year-old web site that offers video clips of homemade films but also is the go-to site for countless snippets taken from commerical TV - has had copyright trouble in the past. But this appears to be the largest purge to date at the site.

From the beginning, TV companies - including Comedy Central - looked the other way when their stuff showed up on YouTube. Many saw it as promotion for their shows. "Getting it off the Internet is no different than getting it off TV," Stewart told an interveiwer recently.

What changed?

YouTube's acquisition last month by Internet giant Google for $1.6 [b]illion, it seems.

With TV networks losing more audience and advertisers each day to the Internet, they are less willing to let it pass now that Google is behind the site.

More on that here. Given the way that major content companies work, the real question is not, why is this happening now? but why did it take so long? Curiously, as South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker told a Reason audience in Amsterdam in August, they have no problem with distribution outlets such as YouTube. (Their exact comments on the matter will be part of an excellent interview running in the December issue of Reason, on newsstands in a week or so; see what you miss when you don't subscribe already?). They (correctly) understand that outlets such as YouTube help to grow (or maintain) the audience for stuff, the same as the old outlaw version of Napster did. In the short run, it might seem like a good idea to make it harder for fans to access stuff they like, but it's really no winner for anyone in the long haul.

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  1. Minor correction: Purchase price of YouTube was $1.6 billion, not $1.6 million.

  2. Yeah, I figured this would happen. YouTube was a dollar-poor site with a huge user base. Getting draconian with YouTube would get content owners virtually nothing in money and plenty in animosity from a very large number of people.

    After YouTube’s acquisition, the pockets have gotten extremely deep, and content owners are setting up the stage to start some serious suing.

  3. Ed,

    Thanks for catching the NY Post’s own error re: millions vs. billions. Duly corrected.

  4. I tend to watch Jon Stewart and the Cobert Report nearly every day at 8PM. The next day, if I find something really funny or insightful, I tend to find that part at YouTube and either e-mail it to friends I think would be interested or show at the office. In this sense, YouTube has been providing free advertising for Comedy Central.

    Of course, I understand the copyright implications of featuring longer snippets at YouTube (word is that only segments of 5 minutes or longer got pulled), and CC had every legal right to demand that YT pulls the videos. It doesn’t make much business sense to me, though.

  5. If networks made their content and hottest clips available up on sites with embedded video players that match the flexibility and convenience of YouTube with promotional sidebars or advertising, I’d be singing the praises of this tactic. Instead there seems to be some corporate disconnect between the concept and execution, and the network video-hosting sites all require registration, are riddled with cookies and spyware, use proprietary streaming codecs, and, in just about every way, suck.
    Hopefully cross-platform content synergy will go the way of the paperless office idea soon.

  6. Matt Stone and Trey Parker told a Reason audience in Amsterdam in August, they have no problem with distribution outlets such as YouTube.

    Whoever has the distribution rights controls the distribution. Very simple concept. If Comedy Central controls those rights (and makes a profit from DVD sales, for instance) then it may be in their best interest to limit distribution of what are clearly bootleg copies. Then again, it may make sense to let them out. Free advertising with no distribution costs. The point is: it’s the property-owner’s choice. Bootlegging is no more righteous if the rights-holder makes a poor (in the bootlegger’s opinion) choice about distribution.

  7. I’m thinking companies that buy advertising on Comedy Central probably object to folks being able to view the good stuff on YouTube without having to sit through ads for their crappy products.

  8. but why did it take so long?

    I think part of the reason it took so long is that unlike the music industry, television companies have been giving away their content from the very beginning. YouTube comes a lot closer to their normal business model.

  9. “I think part of the reason it took so long is that unlike the music industry, television companies have been giving away their content from the very beginning.”

    What about music on the radio? I guess the difference would be that they don’t have a schedule to play Metallica every Thursday at 7 pm, but it’s equally as free, no?

  10. If networks made their content and hottest clips available up on sites with embedded video players that match the flexibility and convenience of YouTube

    Google had better be working on just such a site, or else they blew a hell of a lot of dough for a bunch of videos of cats falling off beds:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/54012

  11. 1.6 billion in STOCK… But YouTube is Doomed

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