My weekly Law Bytes column (homepage version, Toronto Star version, international BBC version) examines the rise of the "clip culture" which has driven the remarkable growth of video sharing sites such as Youtube.com. The column highlights the different types of clips and discusses the legal and business implications that video sharing is beginning to generate.
For policy makers, this form of user generated content raises questions about how best to support an important outlet for cultural and political expression. Moreover, it raises the prospect of possible legal reforms, including the introduction of a robust fair use provision, explicit protection for parody, and a re-examination of the law surrounding derivative works. These provisions play a key role in establishing the conditions upon which individuals can create new works that build upon the content of others.
From a business perspective, media companies are being forced to grapple with the competitive threat of user-generated content and to determine how to address unauthorized sharing of their clips. Many now actively seek innovative new user-generated content and leverage video sharing sites to create greater interest in their programming. For example, MTV2, part of the MTV music station family, and Deep Focus, the agency used by film studios to promote their movies, are working with Youtube to distribute content. Telecommunications companies and intransigent broadcasters face an even tougher choice, as their vision of an on-demand converged Internet, must now compete with the clip culture. That presents new challenges, since users are increasingly not satisfied with merely consuming content, but rather demand the ability to share and re-create it.
Update: Reuters has a lengthy article on Youtube and the dilemma faced by the television industry. The article reports that Youtube is now streaming 30 million videos per day.