By Brian Garrity
As the recording industry tries to block file trading of songs across
peer-to-peer networks, blogs and other viral distribution channels,
the major labels suddenly have a whole new piracy concern: music
The rise of user-generated content sites like YouTube, MySpace, Google
Video and iFilm has sparked a revolution in the viral sharing of music
videos across these Web communities. The problem is, much of the
distribution taking place -- outside a select number of promotional
deals -- is happening without the approval of record companies.
In recent weeks the Recording Industry Association of America has been
stepping up its efforts to stop sharing of popular videos on such
sites, particularly on the rapidly expanding YouTube. The site, which
now claims more than 6 million visitors and 40 million streams daily,
has become a haven for unlicensed music videos, which users are
capturing with TiVo and other digital video recorders and then posting
the files to the Web. Much of the material is coming from recorded MTV
The RIAA recently issued cease-and-desist letters to YouTube users
sharing videos from the likes of Nelly Furtado, Beyonce and Rihanna.
In the wake of the takedowns, users following links to the video are
greeted by this notice: "This video has been removed at the request of
copyright owner the RIAA because its content was used without
Reps for the RIAA and YouTube declined to comment.
However, one source close to the situation says that the recording
industry is lobbying YouTube and other viral video sites to implement
content-filtering technologies to identify and block unauthorized
distribution of copyrighted works.
POLICING THE SITES
Among YouTube's competitors, early attempts at filtering solutions are
bearing out in various ways. A search on Google Video for clips from
commerce partner Sony BMG yields only video-for-sale offers, while
searches for videos from other labels' artists produce unauthorized
video postings. MTV's viral video unit iFilm allows only music videos
that it can monetize through promotional deals or ads. Meanwhile,
MySpace -- which has promotional and ad-supported music videos with
the labels for a designated music video area of the site -- also is
seeing unauthorized videos pop up in its viral video area.
The major labels are taking the position that these sites are
responsible for policing their own communities. But in the meantime,
they have been targeting individuals who use these sites to share
popular music videos, alerting them that they are distributing
Those efforts have produced decidedly mixed results thus far. Many of
the videos that labels have requested be removed have quickly
resurfaced on the site in a matter of days -- a fact that industry
sources suggest supports the need for more stringent filtering by all
viral video specialists.
Viral video sharing would not have been an issue just 18 months ago,
when the labels still viewed music videos as a promotional tool for
selling albums. But today videos are a rapidly growing money-maker for
the music business. The RIAA estimates that sales of music videos
topped $3.7 million in three months, after being introduced in
October. Meanwhile, the major labels also are sharing in the profits
of ad-supported video-on-demand offerings from AOL, Yahoo, Music
Choice and others.
That is revenue the music industry is keenly interested in
protecting. Hopes are that YouTube and others will ink similar deals
with the industry in the long run.
One industry insider familiar with the situation says, "The recording
industry has an important antipiracy goal in music video to ensure
that business moves forward."
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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