Do you want to see The Avengers? Or a French movie? Or a one man show? And you don't have a penny in your pocket? There is a solution to your problem: YouTube.com. This isn't a shady alleyway where you risk being mugged at nightfall. YouTube is a respectable company. Over 800 million users watch videos uploaded by anyone on the website every month, and YouTube is a subsidiary of search engine giant Google.
YouTube is the new Megaupload
Only here's the problem…These past few weeks, YouTube has also become a rallying point for movie-loving copyright pirates, ever since American police shut down Megaupload. These pirates love to watch movies without paying anything. French cinema professionals have a lot to lose, because France has a real movie industry, unlike many European countries. They are considering bringing a lawsuit against YouTube if the company doesn't quickly clean up the offenders from its millions of videos.
Yet it is hard to say that YouTube is guilty. Legally it isn't, because YouTube doesn't make the content, it only hosts it. It only has an obligation to intervene when a problem is flagged. In Germany, YouTube was still sentenced by a court to remove copyright protected clips. Beyond that, YouTube is a bit like Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde.
On the Mister Hyde side, the company has removed almost all of the barriers that prevented pirates from using the website, and coincidentally it makes money thanks to the ads that appear on the pirated videos. Before, it was impossible to upload videos longer than 15 minutes, and therefore movies. That's over. The website offers movie producers and claimants a system that enables them to block illegal videos, but it is very complicated and has just been modified, which can only discourage the pirates’ victims.
YouTube makes everybody happy
On the Doctor Jekyll side, in many cases, YouTube makes everybody happy. There are all of those who can watch videos for free. And then there are the others. For instance, take a look at the most watched videos. Number one: a clip by Justin Bieber, the teen-singer beloved by preteens who watch his clips on a loop. More than 769 million views! Number two Jennifer Lopez, with 581 million views. In both cases, both the artists and their production companies are enthralled that they can promote their songs for next to nothing.
The seventh most viewed video, and first in the amateur section, is a 56 second clip that I recommend: it shows one-year-old Charlie biting his older brother's thumb. More than 472 million viewers found this interesting. Just the English father of the two toddlers received part of the ad revenue raked in by YouTube from the web page that offered access to this monument of the seventh art. It enabled him to buy a house. This is clearly a win-win situation.
But the Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde book ends very badly. There has to be a happier ending between YouTube and the movie industry…. but no one has found it yet. This isn't a unique case: the Internet has also disrupted the music industry, where money that used to come from CD sales now comes mostly from concert revenue. If we apply the same model to video, it would mean financing movies and television shows through live shows, that is to say theatre. Hmm, there must be another way…