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Saturday, October 28, 2006 

All Good Things Must Come to an End

To paraphrase Shakesphere, "Alas,...poor YouTube! I knew them well." Jeff at NewsCloud (via The Raw Story) is reporting that YouTube is removing all of Comedy Central Clips based on DMCA claims. This would include all Daily Show, Colbert Report and South Park.
I received a couple of emails from YouTube this afternoon (see below) notifying me that a third party (probably attorneys for Comedy Central) had made a DMCA request to take down Colbert Report and Daily Show clips. If you visit YouTube, all Daily Show, Colbert Report and South Park clips now show "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation."
Jeff makes an interesting point as to why YouTube would be taking down all of Comedy Central's clips.
With Google purchasing YouTube, ComedyCentral figured there was now an opportunity aka profit center to target. And they've assumably made these DMCA requests to YouTube.

So assumably, with less interesting content, YouTube is a lot less interesting now and perhaps not worth the billion dollars Google paid for it – though they knew exactly what they were getting into. It’s even possible that Apple or Viacom pushed ComedyCentral to take this step since they earn revenue from the shows.
Me being me, I decided to investigate it. I thought there was one of two possibilities as to why this would take place. One, I have notice that Jon Stewart has suddenly brought on more right wing pundits to his shows, such as John Ashcroft, Lou Dobbs, James Baker, Dennis Miller, Trent Lott, Pat Buchanan, and Ed Gillespie are some right off the top of my head. Sort of makes you wonder if the right wing base has been putting some pressure on Comedy Central in an indirect way since Comedy Central is owned by media conglomerate Viacom.

Back in March, it was rumored that Tom Cruise had put pressure on Viacom - who also owns Paramount - to pull an episode South Park that not only caused Issac Hayes to leave the show, but it also ridiculed Cruise and Scientology. The episode made fun of Scientology and featured Tom Cruise refusing to come out of the closet. It was said that Cruise threatened to cancel all publicity for Mission Impossible:3 if they didn't. Not surprisingly, Cruise denied ever making such a threat.

This is not the first time something like this happened to "South Park." In July, CNN reported that the creators of "South Park" had blasted Comedy Central not only for removing that episode but also for blanking out the image of Muhammad of another episode.
"So there are two things we can't do on Comedy Central: show Muhammad or Tom Cruise," Trey Parker said during the MTV Networks portion of the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour.

Parker and Matt Stone said they had no doubt that the "Trapped in the Closet" episode was yanked as a result of Cruise's starring this summer in "Mission: Impossible III," the movie from Paramount, Comedy Central's sister company.
That is only South Park; you also have Steven Colbert who has lawmakers very wary about participating on Colbert's sarcastic skit "Better Know a District." And let's not forget about his performance as featured speaker at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

It that were the case, then why would Comedy Central punish for the sins of "South Park" and "The Colbert Report"? Jon Stewart did increase his ratings for Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" after he hosted the Oscar. In fact, his new episodes averaged 1.6 million total viewers per night.

I don't think that is the reason YouTube removed all the clips from Comedy Central.

It most likely has to do with Google's recent purchase of YouTube. Earlier this month, Google purchased YouTube for "$1.65 billion in a stock-for-stock transaction." Google claims nothing will change with YouTube and that they will continue to "operate independently to preserve its successful brand and passionate community."

Before the purchase, the was a bit of competition between Google Video and YouTube. Even though Google Video is similar to YouTube the sense of being a free video sharing web site by letting users upload, view, and share video clips, there was a difference. The difference between the two video sharing web sites, not all the videos were free on Google. At the beginning of the year, Google started offering a Google Video store at the beginning of the year. The purpose of the Google Video store was Google's way of handling the copyright issues that were creating problems for Google and YouTube. The Google Video store allowed viewers to rent or buy from Google's media partners, such as CBS, the NBA, The Charlie Rose Show, and SONY BMG. In fact, YouTube was constantly being threaten by lawsuits from angry copyright holders.

Back in August, Google had "teamed up with Viacom to provide video clips to websites that are part of Google's AdSense Network."
Ad-supported video continues to gain momentum online. Google has teamed up with Viacom to provide video clips to websites that are part of Google's AdSense Network. Viacom is the parent company to MTV, VH1, CBS and a number of other premium networks. The deal will be positioned as a revenue generator for Google, Viacom, and AdSense partners. All three will split revenues derived from the tie-in of advertising and content.

It will work like this: publishers (bloggers, big media, etc.) can elect to embed shows such as MTV's "Laguna Beach" or Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob Squarepants" on their own web pages in a manner similar to how YouTube supports embedded video (for an example of how this works with YouTube, see this post on Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam). The clips themselves will contain advertising sold not by Google, but by the networks' own ad sales teams. Those networks will share a portion of this revenue with Google, which will in turn share a portion of that revenue with the publishers themselves.
Now that Google bought YouTube, it was inevitable that YouTube would take down those clips. How would Google, Viacom, and the AdSense partners generate a revenue if you can get the clips for free at YouTube. To view any media shows from MTV Networks - such as Comedy Central - on Google Video, you will have to go through their online store and pay (i.e., South Park).

[Update] Before the buyout, YouTube had attempted to defuse some of their copyright concerns by announcing a content and advertising agreement with CBS, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, and Warner Music Group. It looks like this is Napster all over again. The New York Times reported that the deal involved giving those companies an equity stake in YouTube.
Three of the four major music companies — Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, Sony and Bertelsmann’s jointly owned Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and the Warner Music Group — each quietly negotiated to take small stakes in YouTube as part of video- and music-licensing deals they struck shortly before the sale, people involved in the talks said yesterday. The music companies collectively stand to receive as much as $50 million from these arrangements, these people said.
Just days after the purchase, it seems, some companies are looking into YouTube's copyright violations as way to profit from Google.
...lawyers for the group of media companies, which includes News Corp., General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal and Viacom Inc., have concluded that YouTube could be liable to copyright penalties of $150,000 per unauthorized video, people familiar the matter say. Viacom believes that pirated versions of video clips from its cable channels -- including MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon -- are watched 80,000 times a day via YouTube. At that rate, potential penalties could run into the billions of dollars.
None of this is really new. Since the late 90s, file sharing has always been a thorn in the side of the media industry and the Napster case was its first big attempt to stop it. The companies that are looking into suing Google are the same companies - Warner, Universal, BMG, Sony and EMI, also known as "the big five" - that have been trying to take down the "file-sharing" movement for over a decade.

Even though Napster was taken down, other file-sharing systems like Grokster, Morpheus, and KaZaA came on the scene to take the place of Napster. Another round of lawsuits came as 28 media companies sued the distributors of Grokster, Morpheus, and KaZaA for copyright infringement. However, the federal court ruled against the "big 5." The court ruled ruled that Morpheus and Grokster are closer to VCRs and photocopy machines than to a centralized file-sharing service like Napster.

The fact is, the media industry doesn't want us, the little people, to cut into their profits. Don't worry folks, there will be another file sharing YouTube clone in the near future. Like I said all you have to do is look what happened to Napster. The file sharing movement is too strong to take down.


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