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Eye on YouTube

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Daniel Pearl | 12:10 UK time, Friday, 14 July 2006

Peter's on holiday this week. We sent him to an isolated cottage in south-west France with his family. He has no internet access and we confiscated his mobile phone.

Newsnight logoSo in his absence I thought I'd write a few thoughts this week. I'm probably way behind the internet curve, but I only recently discovered the joys of YouTube...

Here at the BBC we're obliged to take copyright issues extremely seriously. Producers are constantly in fear of broadcasting uncleared pictures, or discovering, as we did the other day, that five seconds of archive was to cost us over £1000 (you can imagine how that went down with Peter when he found out). Well, on Wednesday morning I came in to find an email from the agent of rock photographer Mick Rock - he'd spotted an uncleared picture we'd used in Robin Denselow's obituary of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett.

An image of the YouTube websiteMick was extremely gracious and only charged us a small fee. However it got me thinking - how does YouTube get away with it? Newsnight's Syd Barrett film is on YouTube for anyone to find - and for anyone to judge whether Mick's photo was worth paying for (I'd argue it was). So, who put our film up there? Has Mick seen it and if so, who has paid him his small fee for the use of his picture? So far 1,125 people have viewed the film via YouTube, admittedly a small number, but none the less, surely copyright is copyright?

On Tuesday the producer of the item, Rebecca, had great difficulty in finding clearable pictures of Syd that she could use. In fact the film came close to not being broadcast - at 11pm they were still looking for shots of the rock recluse. But had Rebecca looked on YouTube and searched for Syd she would have founds reams of footage - everything from homemade tributes to a stalker movie someone made discreetly following Syd around Cambridge.

Now how much of this material is infringing copyright? And what would have happened if we'd just taken it and reused it on Newsnight? I guess I would have received a load of emails asking for money. So why is there one rule for us and another for YouTube? Perhaps someone could explain.

In fact if you search for Newsnight on YouTube you'll find a whole range of our films and discussions. Currently, over 20,000 people have watched Kirsty's interview with Pete Doherty - a smaller number (71) have watched Peter Marshall's expose of British corruption in Saudi contracts - or as described on YouTube: "An exclusive and gutsy report from the beebs flagship news programme." As more and more people get their TV over the web, these questions are bound to become more important.

Mick's agent is about to get very busy.

Daniel Pearl is deputy editor of Newsnight


  • 1.
  • At 12:45 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

YouTube is full of copyright infringement. Whole TV series are on there (e.g. Scrubs), whole films (Cabaret for example) too. Sure, they're split into 10 minute parts, but that's better than watching commercials! YouTube are going to get into a lot of trouble at some point soon and they'll suddenly find they lose most of their users once its just a load of badly made home videos. In many ways you could accuse YouTube and Google Video of institutionalized copyright infringement.

I believe that copyright needs a serious reform. Nobody can stop these things getting onto the Internet - suing people won't stop it, everyone just thinks "it won't happen to me". As such either the "old media" needs to offer some "added value" for their broadcasts or they need to start a licence fee of some sort for computer (or Internet) use, much like the system used for music on radio stations currently. Obviously this makes Internet more expensive in the short term, but I imagine this would be easy enough for ISPs to "swallow" in the normal cost.

The endless suing of users and websites is just like cutting of a hydra's head, you won't win, you'll just force evolution - encrypted p2p for example.

  • 2.
  • At 01:12 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Frank wrote:


I don't accept that YouTube will lose all viewers if they aren't allowed to use copyrighted material - people are increasingly interested in what amateurs have to show/say. Aren't they?

Youtube, I believe, is protected by the same Safe Harbour provisions that protect ISPs - these laws were put in place to prevent ISPs from being liable for their subscribers' actions.

And to be fair to Youtube, they can't vet videos for copyright infringment automatically. The only practical approach is to let everything through and tidy up later on. Provided Youtube plays by a few rules, including responding to takedown notices and complaints of indecency, they should be reasonably well-covered.

The Safe Harbour provisions are also known as "neutral carrier" protection - that the ISPs are not considered to be endorsing or supporting material that users punt across their network. It'll be interesting to see how net neutrality affects that protection as ISPs start effectively endorsing content from certain providers.

  • 4.
  • At 01:43 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Mr R2-D2 wrote:

The BBC gouges everyone in the UK with its television tax. We're entitled to use its programs anyway way we like - we've paid for them after all. And let's not even think about the money made by BBC Worldwide.

  • 5.
  • At 01:48 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Raymondo wrote:

I agree Ed that we need copyright reform. Look how much video, audio and written content is posted on the Internet without authorisation.

Even if YouTube disappeared tomorrow the same stuff would appear on a myriad of other sites across the Internet.

Forceing the likes of YouTube to implement pro-active vetting would ruin development of new means of expression.

There is a increasing amount of public domain, quality material on there (the Danwei TV Chinese mini-interviews and documentaries for example).

I know that YouTube do remove material reactively, so test the system and ask them to do so.

I don't know that it's YouTube getting away with it, although they are hosting the material and making it available, and presumably are making money from Google Adsense as a result of hosting the copyrighted videos people are watching.

Really a system should be in place to vet the videos as they are uploaded to the site - it would only take a few seconds for each one to make sure it's an amateur one and not a copyrighted clip, and maybe watching the whole thing where it's not clear.

It's also odd why people do this, when music videos are available at a superior quality via MTV and other sites, and German music videos are available via VIVA's website - who have music channels in Germany and other countries.

I was watching a clip from the Late Show with David Letterman from the CBS website last week, and told someone to watch it. They'd already seen it on YouTube (again, in an inferior quality) - if CBS have put it up (and the clips don't disappear) I don't know why YouTube becomes the site of choice.

I'm trying to think the example through - one rule for 'us' (Newsnight?) and another for YouTube? As a content creator - being the BBC or Newsnight - then you'd be responsible for clearing such content? I would have thought this would apply to all content creators, whether someone creating a video for upload or a professional organisation.

If you didn't clear that photo, it wouldn't be up to SES Astra or National Grid Wireless as the carriers of the content, like YouTube, to clear up, it would be the content creator be it 'videogirl374' or the BBC?

Anyway... it is a problem. I'm really surprised the BPI and RIAA haven't been on their case about it, considering their current trends as far as the music content goes.

  • 8.
  • At 02:04 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

Frank, yes they're interested in what other people have to say, sure - the popularity of blogs proves that. But the average "man on the street" is not able to make a good quality video. The barrier to entry is much higher. Sure, there's gimmicks of kids singing into their web-cam, or this urban climbing stuff and a few things like that, but even the best armatures cannot make "tv quality" video.

There's a reason TV crews are large. Notice how even the smallest productions have 20+ people working on them - lighting, sound, video, editing, post production etc. Radio stations (and hence podcasts) can happily run on a one man basis (talk shows etc) - that's why podcasts work.

Sure, you can make video podcasts, but that's just like radio with pictures. Gimmicky, but not exactly much better than listening.

The people who do manage to pull off worthwhile videos on YouTube and the like will get snapped up by the existing Big Media. I expect many of them will be media students themselves.

The rest of YouTube will essentially end up like the "home video" programs on TV - good filler stuff, but not high quality programming.

YouTube is an amusement, but the popular things on it are programming produced by the existing media companies, plus a few Internet memes.

On the point made by Dan Glegg, I cannot believe that is the case. YouTube are not an ISP, they're a service provider. P2P networks have been sued for allowing their users to commit copyright infringement, and they're even less to blame than YouTube. YouTube are actually hosting the content on their servers.

From what I understand YouTube is losing a substantial amount of money from providing what it does. Bandwidth for video is not cheap, and unlike Google, they don't have the clout (yet) to negotiate deals with the existing "Old Media" to distribute their content to support the free content.

I'm not generally negative about these new sites - I just don't think that YouTube has much to offer beyond a site for silly home videos and copyright infringement.

  • 9.
  • At 02:05 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

The tricky thing with YouTube is this - if i watch a clip of a BBC show, for instance Little Britain, what is the difference between me watching it there or recording it at home and watching it later? I know technically home taping is illegal, but if it's for my personal use, then it's ok isn't it?

Maybe there should be some kind of system where YouTube display the name of the copyright holder when displaying a video of copyrighted content. Is the a PRS/PPL style organisation for TV, where companies pay an annual fee and submit what videos they have been showing, so the artists are paid for the broadcast of their material?

I can see that things that haven't been broadcast are a complicated issue, as the creators of any media work should have a say in where their material is published, and recieve payment for it. I make music, and i'd be livid if someone pinched one of my tracks and put it over their video without informing me.

However, it doesn't mean i agree with over the top copyright protection. I have CDs that i can't listen to, as i have an MP3 player and the CD is copy protected. Just because the music industry assumes that if i want to copy their CD, i want to do something illegal with the copy. I'd love to be able to encode my DVDs to a computer, but most of them have copy protection because the movie industry are paranoid that the only reason someone would copy a DVD is to give it to a friend, sell copies or share it online.

If something has been broadcast on TV, do i have a right to watch it on YouTube, or am i breaking copyright law? Am i still committing a crime by taping an episode of Waking The Dead and keeping it so i can watch it again? I simply don't know anymore...

  • 10.
  • At 02:11 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Ben wrote:

I'm not sure how copyright infringement of the type you describe over web is entirely policable at the moment. And I think that's part of the problem for copyright holders. Hollywood or the music business may be waging a high profile war against mass file sharing but by the very nature of the web, if I have the time, conviction and ability to load a file up to a web server (or host it on my hard drive with all my ports open for anyone to access) then mass copyright infringement will continue. In fact as broadband speed increases for everyone and new ways of sharing are created it will get much much worse. So how can you stop it? You can take action against individual sites or hosting companies but by then it's far too late. I would suggest a technical solution akin to what Sony is trying to do with Blu Ray. Encode your TV signal to only play on television sets. But then all sorts of people with a lot of money invested in technology would really not like to see that happen.

Or perhaps the old copyright system needs to change? Should you really have to pay syd any money whatsoever just for using some video footage of him? What's right to say is that you cannot have an unlevel playing field and a set of rules than hurts you and benefits Youtube. And Youtube seem to have a "well we can't police every bit of content that goes up on our site" attitude as a defence. Well that's plainly not good enough. One day someone will take offence and sue their pants off. Hey maybe it should be you?

Those posting their own material should also be aware that they're contributing to an archive they may not be aware of, as pointed out by No Rock & Roll Fun:

Not only does YouTube retain the right to create derivative works, but so do the users, and so too, does YouTube's successor company [...]

More broadcasters are finding their stuff on YouTube. One way of looking at it, as long as you've plastered the screen with DOGs, might be as another distribution channel - it's certainly working that way for The Daily Show.

And then there's the matter of people posting BBC material containing their own user-generated content...

  • 12.
  • At 02:38 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • ryan wrote:

I'd rather know why we can't access all of the bbc's previous broadcasts from the net yet (i know there is some up there, but nearly enough)

we've all paid for it haven't we? the material does in fact belong to the british public...

  • 13.
  • At 02:51 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Damien wrote:

Thank goodness for YouTube, at least they don't block content to IPs not within the UK. The BBC have web presence is a great resource but it's very frustrating not to be able to view any of your multimedia just because I am not physically located in the UK. is a massive marketing platform.

As a broadcaster, do you allow trailers / clips of your shows to be seen by an audience of millions on (at zero cost)?

Or do you pay £000s for TV ads / video streaming from your own website?

The answer's pretty obvious.

What this does in fact highlight is that the skeletal structure of copyright on the web needs looking at from the ground up - and has to consider that this is a 'new' medium, and not simply an extension of an old one. Sadly, this is never likely to happen, as we're stuck with the framework for technology and legality that has been developed and implemented with little idea as to how the big picture of a new media ecology actually works, and as such we have the 'fingers in the dyke' approach adopted by any number of 'old' media organisations.

  • 16.
  • At 03:03 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

Kenobi, but do these people want to be encouraging a platform that blatantly infringes their copyright? Do they want adverts for competitiors products shown next to their clips?

Either way, how is YouTube expecting to make any money? Bandwidth is expensive.

  • 17.
  • At 03:13 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Raymond Goldsmith wrote:

You Tube and others like them, Napster pre 2005 et al, who parasite their living off of the legitimate work of others should be aggressively pursued and shut down at every possible juncture.

Their contempt to evade the law and thus encourage others to think that this type of act is perfectly acceptable in the age of "new media" sends a insidiuos message to the youth culture of today.

I'm a massive fan of YouTube, but the fact is that as the law stands at the moment, they must be on very dodgy ground. They're serving the videos up after all. If I put copyright mp3s on my site, I'd expect to feel the full wrath of the BPI, and they'd get taken down along with my site pretty pronto.

Yet seemingly I could happily post a video of myself miming to the same song and it'll end up on YouTube. No doubt there are plenty of disclaimers, but I can't see how YouTube can get out of their liabilities.

And simply "checking" to see if the video contains copyright material is next to impossible. How does a YouTube editor know if the obscure music you've used on your video is copyrighted or not? And as Charlie Brooker showed in his recent BBC4 series Screen Wipe, showing a random photo of John Selwyn Gummer costs money. He couldn't display the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band due to copyright reasons. That's why you see blurred T-shirts and posters in some music videos. A poster in a bedroom or a picture on the wall may be copyright. Who's to know?

Within the letter of the law, even a home video of your child's birthday party, with a full rendition of "Happy Birthday" might actually incur fees payable.

YouTube is a difficult problem for most broadcasters. But, as I've already paid for this content as a British citizen, and the BBC's "myBBCplayer" is still to be forthcoming, I don't see why the BBC shouldn't have a deal with YouTube to show (without advertising, obviously) BBC content to UK only audiences.

Come on BBC, you were one of the first broadcasters to suggest online broadcasting when Greg Dyke started to look at it, why not get on board?

  • 20.
  • At 03:30 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

The making of the Syd Barrett programme seems to illustrate that copyright can get in the way of communication. Online of course communication lets nothing get in its way.

Funnily enough I live in Cambridge and remember seeing Syd Barrett myself. Clearly some people have taken pictures of him. I'm sure that in this online age which places communication before copyright there is a high chance that they would gladly and for no fee at all have let you use their 'work'. However, the BBC is not a collaborative enterprise. YouTube is.

Maybe take a leaf out of Wikimedia Commons and build up a similar media resource, ie one to which others can contribute, or better yet, perhaps the BBC could pitch in with theirs :)

Further in respect of the BBC being a little adrift from the online current I watch a great deal of BBC programming and visit the news website daily. As I don't have a television (and a very tall man has been round to check btw) I don't pay a licence fee. I wouldn't object to paying it, but I don't feel it's my job to chase after you, rather I feel it's your responsibility to catch up with me.

In a number of ways the BBC has to get where the action is. Back to YouTube, I wonder if it would be worth coming to an arrangement with them naturally bearing in mind that the BBC won't be paying any of the costs of distribution. People are happy to do that independently. In the interests of communication.

  • 21.
  • At 03:32 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Leslie Honeyman wrote:

Daniel -

You call this ' flagship news'? Dead rock music artists ?

I think not.

You are all mad.

"Do they want adverts for competitiors products shown next to their clips?"

What do you think happens when a broadcaster / studio advertises their DVD on ITV or Ch4? Should the BBC not advertise the Doctor Who DVD in Uncut magazine because the mag runs ads from competitor broadcasters?

It's a little gladiatorial, but if your content is that good, it'll stand up well against any competition.

YouTube shows that broadcasting has changed. Give people exactly what they want, when they want it - don't try and predict a user's taste / needs by launching countless freeview channels (ITV3, ITV4 etc).

Sky+ is stepping stone to this demand. It's popular because it panders to user's needs and wants.

The BBC are way ahead of the game anyway - the launch of the BBC Media player will wipe the floor with any competition. Think about it - combine the search functionality of Google with a media player and you have one of the most powerful tools on the web. YouTube does exactly the same thing - only the BBC has one of the biggest archives in the world.

Let YouTube have its fun. People will eventually go to where the programming is anyway - the BBC Media Player.

  • 23.
  • At 03:34 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • John wrote:

I am sure you know that it is up to the copyright owner to control/police their own IP. (correct me if I am wrong)

Seems crazy really ... imagine there are no police and you have to bring a private prosecution for everything from murder to counterfeiting.

As has been mentioned already - shutting down YouTube isn't the answer. The "age" of new media is here, and we're in the emergent stages of it. If our reaction is simply to shut down something that we frankly don't really understand, then we're no more engaged with technology and a new cultural form than some Governments that might be mentioned. As the telecoms companies are starting to notice with regard to internet phone calls, shouting at new media isn't going to get you very far. This is like taxi drivers complaining that improved public transport systems should be banned as it takes away customers from them. If a culture is going to be grown-up about technology, it has to work with it, and change. Once pandora's box is open, it's pretty difficult to shut it again.

  • 25.
  • At 03:42 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Mike wrote:

The Safe Harbour provisions (if relevant at all - that's by no means clear) are only relevant to the US market. If YouTube content is available in markets without such provisions, then copyright holders can sue in those jurisdictions and US law is irrelevant. YouTube carries huge quantities of copyright infringemnts and, in many jusridictions, is wholly liable for that as the "publisher". France is an excellent example of such a jurisdiction.

Whether or not copyright law needs changing is a separate issue. Currently, sites such as YouTube are breaking the existing law and are likely to find themselves on the wrong side of some very expensive lawsuits in the future - the LVMH/Google case being an excellent example of how such trans-jurisdictional areas of IP law can operate.

Some people may believe that they have a moral right to share copyright content with others; the laws of most countries say not. And those laws generally have teeth.

  • 26.
  • At 03:48 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Liz wrote:

To Damien - you will be able to view the BBC's archive online outside the UK the day you pay for it via the licence fee. Why should you get free content that people in the UK have paid for? Or to put it another way, why should we as UK licence payers subsidise the rest of the world's viewing just because you like the BBC and the companies in your country aren't up to scratch? If they were, you would watch via them instead of an overseas company like the BBC. Do we get free online access to overseas broadcasting companies archives? No. So you should not get free access to ours.

  • 27.
  • At 03:49 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Wai Mun Yoon wrote:

Time to invite Stanford's Lawrence Lessig onto Newsnight to discuss the future of copyright in the digital age, perhaps?

For those unfamiliar with his work, here's an entertaining presentation (which addresses the heart of the issue discussed here) in his inimitable style. [Flash required]

  • 28.
  • At 03:52 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Kevin wrote:

I'm no expert, but YouTube try to cover themselves with their terms and conditions:

5.B and 5.C

For the love of god - next you'll be saying the BPI should threaten legal action against the ISPs! Oh...

I love YouTube, but alas, I think they could go the way of Napster.

If you're repeatedly infringing copyright, you'll be targeted.

By the way, YouTube will shape blogs of the future. People have started communicating / posting replies in video format. It'll catch on throughout all blogs and be a standard I'm sure.

Comment number 17 read:

You Tube and others like them, Napster pre 2005 et al, who parasite their living off of the legitimate work of others should be aggressively pursued and shut down at every possible juncture.
Their contempt to evade the law and thus encourage others to think that this type of act is perfectly acceptable in the age of "new media" sends a insidiuos message to the youth culture of today.

And I'd like to respond to this.

In the days before "online" was part of everyday vocabulary, families gathered around a radio and yet the radio cost nothing extra. Friends gathered around a television and yet neither the television nor the license cost a penny extra. As a species, we advance by sharing experiences - propagating knowledge and memory between and across individuals is what made us able to progress technologically, artistically and intellectually.

Nowadays, we want to communicate globally. And instinctively, we want to share experiences globally as well. But this instinct is seemingly in conflict with the law.

Sure, people who are selling the work of others are in outright violation of the law and creator's rights and this is a crime that should be acted upon. But where do we draw the line for personal use? Is it illegal to show a video to a friend? To listen to a CD with the window open?

Youtube make no attempt to evade the law. They provide tools for content owners to report and remove illegitimate content - and they themselves are neither posting nor selling the material itself. They are simply serving up what people want to watch or submit.

The content businesses have always profited by selling a more convenient or comfortable experience - with great sound, comfortable seats or a hi-def picture. (And, nowadays, aggressive distrust of the customer, but I digress.) And they've profited by people enjoying their product and showing or telling their friends, who in turn become customers.

Tools like Youtube are a means of showing and telling in bulk, and nothing more. To state that this instinct is "insidious" is absurd - what's really insidious the trend of applying old morality and old economy and old logic to new things. Most of the time, it simply won't stick.

There's a gigantic wedge of unspent consumer cash just waiting for the first major content producer to get it.

I really like YouTube and find it very useful. If I miss a few goals or a dodgy decision in the football, I just log on and find the video which some kind person has up loaded.

Companies such as Nike only release certain adverts on the internet on sites such as YouTube e.g. the one featuring Ronaldinho, which is now on the all time list of most watched.

It works both ways, they get exposure but can lose money from revenue, but it is definately the way forward.

  • 32.
  • At 05:20 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

YouTube will either "go the way of napster" or have to commercialise themselves significantly more. Currently they're eating through tens of thousands of dollars of investor's money and not exactly making much money.

The difference between someone advertising on YouTube and advertising on TV is that on YouTube you've got competitiors ads shown at the same time, plus no control over the contents presentation nor the comments from your disgruntled (former?) customers at the bottom of the page.

If the BBC really make all their output avaliable online, they will have to start either taxing uk ISPs instead of the licence fee or give licence fees some unique ID numbers that can be validated to allow access online. As it is, I don't have a TV nor a licence yet I can access all this content online and not pay for it. I'm in a minority (well, appart from other poor students), but if the online delivery really works (and doesn't use a custom Windows only piece of malware like the iPlayer/myBBCPlayer/whatever will turn out to be) then some people (like poor students) won't be getting a TV...

  • 33.
  • At 06:34 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • kevin bonici wrote:

Sorry, but re. youtube, I believe you're moaning.

What income has Newsnight, or the BBC, lose due to youtube's provision?

I guess some of those thousands who watched newsnight only on youtube might consider to check out Newsnight on BBC... it's an advert for Newsnight.

So the sour grapes are puerile - we pay, why not youtube? ...cos youtube is a public uploading service and is not commercialising the service (have you seen an advert on youtube?)

that's putting it briefly... otherwise, of course, keep it up Newsnight,



  • 34.
  • At 06:50 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Dougie wrote:

I agree with #4

We pay for it, we're entitled to watch it when we want. In the age of the internet it's shocking that viewers still have to abide to a scedule.

Leave Youtube alone! You can ask Youtube to take down copyright footage, thats what American Idol did. Lets keep the web free!

  • 36.
  • At 09:04 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Bob wrote:

The RIAA is taking an interest in You Tube and has been sending cease and desist letters to people posting music clips on the site. However, I think a lot of the media industry are watching them with intererst to see if they can come up with a way to monetize their content.

They've had over $11m in VC and are spending £1m a month on bandwidth. If they start making a profit then the RIAA may go after them.

  • 37.
  • At 09:56 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Charlie wrote:

In the short term, it's hardly going to harm BBCs DVD sales, and in the long term, if they wised up and offered high quality versions of their shows on the net for sale, like a quid a show, they'd hoover up a bunch of revenue. The BBC has got so used to it's archaic monopoly on stuff, they don't seem to have realised that TV viewing is going the same way music listening has.

It would help if the BBC posted their regular video online in a manner that was easily playable. I'm a web designer, I'm highly computer literate, I've got a 5mb broadband connection and yet I never watch your news stories online, as much as I'd love to. The problem is the BBC use either Windows media streaming , or Realplayer (which requires registration to use) to stream your video.

Both of these formats are a complete disaster; you get a 'buffering' message for the first few seconds, the video will play for a few seconds and then it'll usually want to buffer agian. There's no way of shuttling back and forth through the video, or replaying something you've just seen as you'll have to wait for the video to buffer up again.

Please consider using what has now (thanks to YouTube and Google video) become *the* way of streaming video via the web; make use of Flash's new video capabilities. Both YouTube and google video owe almost their entire existance to the player, version 8 having brought ease of use to online video.

When a video is playing up, it stays in the memory as long as your browser window is open, meaning you can skip back through the video, skip to the middle, pause and stop at will without waiting to rebuffer again. Windows media player and Realplayer's formats don't allow this kind of interaction, but it is precisely these abilities which make video via the web so worthwhile.

  • 39.
  • At 10:29 PM on 14 Jul 2006,
  • Falc wrote:

I think that the BBCs content should be public domain. The reason I think this is because the viewers pay for it with there TV Licence. Perhaps if the TV License was dropped and didn't exist, I'll find it reasonable that I can't watch programs on my computer.

YouTube is a fantastic resource for ametuers of the sort who want to show off there videos they have made. I believe that if it is persued because of rediculous copyright laws it would no longer be allowed to continue providing its useful service to people who simply make videos for the fun of it or to get there name out without digging deep. And once again the monopolisation of the broadcasting industry to continue on again. We have seen this with music, have we not?

This is a problem not limited to broadcast television. The record industry have been wrestling with this issue for years.

The difficulty is that, computationally, the act of viewing, or listening to, a stream of data, is indistinguishable from the act of copying it.

With exponentially increasing bandwidth and hard drive sizes, our access to data, and by implication our ability to copy it, has never been greater. Enforcing copyright is unlikely to become any easier over the next few decades. YouTube is just the tip of a far larger iceburg.

Ah, the wonderful old red herring of people outside the UK shouldn't see BBC television because they didn't pay the license fee. Here's an experiement for you - pay the license fee then live outside the UK, and guess what, you won't be allowed to see BBC television either.

  • 42.
  • At 09:33 AM on 15 Jul 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

To Liz - Damien may well have paid his license fee, the point is that regardless of that, the BBC blocks you based on your IP. I pay my license fee, and i'm going to the States for a week shortly, if i wanted to pass the time watching something i've paid for, when i'm not in the UK, i can't.

As regards YouTube, if they willingly take down any videos that shouldn't be up there, for copyright reasons or whatever, then i don't think anything should be done. They are no more breaching copyright than Google is by caching data from paid for sites. It is the users who are breaching copyright, not YouTube

  • 43.
  • At 10:07 AM on 15 Jul 2006,
  • dr robert wrote:

here's a thought - why doesnt the BBC collaborate with YouTube and make its archives available to millions around the world?

In my view, YouTube is currently doing the BBC a favour - how much would advertising "newsnight" around the world cost the BBC? At the moment, YouTube is effectively advertising BBC programs at zero cost to the BBC.

Its a win win situation for both parties.

  • 44.
  • At 11:35 AM on 15 Jul 2006,
  • Des Currie wrote:

I used to take copyrights seriously until I found them printed in Bibles.
Now the right to copy is just a click away.
Anything, just click and it is yours.
Des Currie

I'm surprised that Daniel doesn't already know this but if he emails his colleagues at BBC Brand Protection on they'll serve a 'take down' notice.

  • 46.
  • At 02:21 PM on 15 Jul 2006,
  • Ken Kelsaw wrote:

20+ people to produce a TV production? Perhaps for those of you on the BBC gravy train!

By following a few basic rules its not difficult to create professional looking video by yourself. Start by using a tripod, taking the camera off "auto focus" and other automatic rubbish and get a decent microphone.

Surprisngly good results can be obtained cheaply.

And if you do want to produce broadcast quality video, the docu-soap camera of choice (the Sony PD150) can be picked up second hand from just over a grand.

Don't let the polo necked wearing TV people convince you its difficult. If they let you realise how easy it is, they'd all be out of a job!

  • 47.
  • At 04:56 PM on 15 Jul 2006,
  • Keith wrote:

There is, apparently, a growing demand for copyright reform. The trouble is that what is being asked for seems to be a loosening of copyright.

This ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of artists, musicians, photographers and writers don't make a living from their work. They need every peeny they can get and are entitled to benefit from their intellectual property, however unpopular that fact may be with the right-clicking majority.

Lessig is a professor at a top-notch US university and can probably afford to waive some of his intellectual property rights, but most of us can't.

This whole problem is clearly a long way from resolution, and I've got an awful feeling that it won't end happily for the small copyright-holder.

  • 48.
  • At 07:23 PM on 15 Jul 2006,
  • Jim Poole wrote:

Who pays for the BBC?

The licence payer, that's who. Every single household with a television set in the UK gives the BBC £131.50 per year.

Money well spent, as the best costs.

I would gladly pay £400 a year for mine!

What other broadcaster in the world provides as much quality output as the BBC does without resorting to sponsorship or product placement?

None of them..

Hours of entertainment across all genres, without once attempting to sell you a product. The programmes ARE the product, and what a product they are.

The BBC is the envy of the global television audience. People across the world are entertained, informed and educated in a totally unbiased way. A Trusted voice in a world of lies and half truth. Something we as licence payers should be universally proud of.

Viewers around the world would love to be able to watch the BBC than their own home-grown stations, but due to various licencing restrictions and copyrights unfortunatly cannot. That is why videos appear on services like YouTube.

The BBC is making in-roads, with the introduction of the iMP, but apparently, it will be for UK users only, on the same principle as their World cup coverage. Is this what the audience want though?

Imagine a time, in the not too distant future where you can be on a train in China, on the beach in Australia or a hotel in the deserts of Arizona and download tonights episode of Eastenders onto your laptop, handheld device or internet enabled cellphone to watch at your leisure.

Far Fetched I hear you cry! Technologically impossible, I hear others shout!

Well, there are some folk out there who will tell you that if we push the right buttons, we can do it now!

Fair enough, youtube does heavily infringe copyright, they are 100 % responsible for content as they act as a server, this cannot be disputed.

However it can be argued that youtube is offering a positive for the persons/companies that have been wronged, surely brings the brand name to a larger domain, offering excessivly free publicity for all involved in the clips. And lets face it, with youtubes site traffic, its no small amount. And with the grainy bandwidth that it currently offers, do major companies really feel all that threatened with the dawn of High Definition quickly ushering in a new level of television and broadcast? Of course youtube cant provide the bandwidth nessicary for such content....

I dont promote copyright infringment, but surley to try to clamp down on sites like youtube is a massive waste of time and resources

Liz (and others) - I am a BBC license payer. I have paid (and do pay) for BBC content to be produced. However, I'm currently travelling around Asia and cannot access a large amount of BBC content.

Certain programs on BBC Radio, for instance, and many of the videos on the BBC web page including news footage. This is rather infuriating. Is there no way of making a "log in to view" facility available where a login can be tied to a license number?

The BBC is currently somewhat akin to a bank that offers telephone banking and then makes the number a UK local rate one so that a person on holiday abroad cannot use it - an occasion when they're possibly more likely to need to.

  • 51.
  • At 07:43 AM on 16 Jul 2006,
  • Steven wrote:

Money money money...

Sorry but YouTube will never become the next google... bbc... microsoft...

So honestly.... who cares.

  • 52.
  • At 06:55 AM on 17 Jul 2006,
  • Dan wrote:

I dont think the BBC are in any positon to be demanding copyright protection, I think the UK public are quite happy to share all their programms with the rest of the world.

Copyright is a restricting law on information and benfits only thoses looking to make a profit.

New copyright laws should not be created for the internet as this will obviously only restrict access to information. Instead leave it as it is and naturally it will evolve in which all corperate money interested garbage advertisment and so on will no longer find their money and so that type of content will slowly die which can only be a good thing theres enough of that junk on regulated TV and Radio.

  • 53.
  • At 10:04 AM on 17 Jul 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

Websites like have a way for content owners to request that their content is removed, but they still are being sued for existing. How is that different to YouTube?

  • 54.
  • At 01:00 PM on 17 Jul 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

I've only ever posted one video on YouTube.

It was a short clip that I had re-edited from an episode of Doctor Who - the bright red-clad monks from Tooth And Claw - and replaced the soundtrack on using the Tai Chi music freely available at

How this posed a threat to any BBC income stream I don't know but the clip was soon taken down after 'a complaint from the copyright holder', i.e. the BBC.

So clearly all you have to do is contact YouTube and they will take anything down that you say infringes your copyright.

  • 55.
  • At 07:42 PM on 17 Jul 2006,
  • philip wrote:

@Christopher Tierney
"The problem is the BBC use either Windows media streaming , or Realplayer (which requires registration to use) to stream your video."

The BBC needs some forums.

  • 56.
  • At 06:08 PM on 18 Jul 2006,
  • philip wrote:

Tur v. YouTube Inc., 06cv4436

Suit filed last Friday.

  • 57.
  • At 07:27 PM on 19 Jul 2006,
  • Phil. wrote:

Your conributors Tom and Mr R2-D2 (and others) raise good points about YouTube.

If the BBC is financed by (UK) tax-payers, should that content, exploited and published by the BBC online, not be free to air, to anyone?

However (as the BBC is currently considering) should non-UK viewers/readers/listeners online (like me, in Bulgaria) not have to pay for access to this material, whether published directly on a BBC website or by others, eg, YouTube?

Along with other respondents, I agree that the entire idea and concept of conventional copyright needs to be sorted out - on an internationally agreed and practically enforceable basis. Otherwise, there are no limits (remember why the WWW was set up, so idealistically, in the first place?).


  • 58.
  • At 04:27 PM on 21 Jul 2006,
  • Tim wrote:
  • My friend records Dr Who on his PC's Media Centre to watch later. I have no Media Centre software and download it via BitTorrent. We both have a copy of the program on our PC, but I'm a (license paying) criminal?

  • I can't use P2P software to "share" music, but how can the RIAA et al know if I send all my albums to my friends via my private email account?

  • Websites try to block my "right click, save as" on their images by using crude javascript, ignoring the fact that the images are already saved on my hard-drive for me to view them.

In this age of rapidly increasing bandwith and storage it becomes ever more ridiculous to talk about who "owns" some sound or video bytes of data. Either you make something publically available or you don't. The same applies to software, although it's much more complex and therefore easier to police. Do I need a "per user" license for every song I own? The "finger in the dyke" reference is correct. The lines between viewing\listening, recording and sharing narrow all the time and this is just the beginning. Copyright needs a re-write. Not sure where it leaves the content creators...

Your old road is rapidly agin'. Please get out of the new one If you can't lend your hand For the times they are a-changin'.

  • 59.
  • At 08:58 AM on 04 Aug 2006,
  • Alan wrote:

It's not just only youtube that puts up copyright material on the internet, you can surf the web all day long and find thousands of web pages hosting movies or clips that have a copyright on them.

The BBC seems to be using youtube as a scapegoat for their own publicity.

Anyway with all the repeats the BBC show over and over again, its not like they are losing out to pre recorded releases.

I can see youtube moving servers in the near future, to a country that will not give a hoot about copyright material imo.

  • 60.
  • At 02:18 AM on 24 Aug 2006,
  • steve wrote:

Fascinating discussion. It's intriguing how common a topic this has become in the light of Napster etc. I can't give a definitive answer about youTube (suffice to say up in Scotland "You Tube!" is something of an affectionate insult :-) but there a couple of points I'm surprised haven't been discussed yet which inform our understanding of copyright:

1) The purpose of copyright law around the world is to promote the arts, the sciences, and the humanities.

i.e. The law says that it is precisely by the re-use, adaption, transformation etc of others work that society develops. (Imagine the evolution of jazz and blues if early performers had to get permission to sing or adapt each others songs?) Restrictions on our rights to 'copy' or re-use a creative work exist not simply for the benefit of the creator, but in order to encourage creators to make their work public -- so that in turn it will quoted, referenced, and circulated because this, says the law, is for the good of society. Without these restrictions, many works would simply sit in drawers or in cupboards where they benefit no-one.

2) Although the USA is perhaps the most advanced society in enforcing copyright law (on behalf of some), they also have a very interesting legal clause known as "Fair Use" -- this means in certain circumstances it is perfectly legal to re-use someone else's copyright material. When it applies, it is not a priviledge, it is a right.

There's some great info about Fair Use in the USA at:

Fair use exceptions in the UK are different, but as previous posters have pointed out, the law and reality are currently out of kilter. Would updating UK law to include a similar Fair Use clause (based on the right to freedom of expression) benefit our society? And would it include the right to post BBC programs on youTube? Answers on a postcard please.

  • 61.
  • At 12:04 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Andrew Livingston wrote:

One would note the main issue about people posting BBC content on YouTube is made pretty clear in the original plog post - that the BBC are paying contributors, musicians, writers and other rights holders every time they use their contributions, to comply with the law. The BBC don't buy the copyright to most of the things they show, they only "lease" it (which is much cheaper), which is why the BBC don't then have the legal right to go and give it away to all and sundry for ever.

It's not about protecting the BBC's revenue streams so much as the BBC covering it's legal backside from getting sued by other people for the material it uses.

  • 62.
  • At 11:53 PM on 01 Oct 2006,
  • Robert wrote:

Copyright also protects the small people and helps them try to earn a living. If you are a photographer (many of whom really struggle now) then somewhere along the line someone has to pay to publish your work, otherwise you earn nothing.

If Newsnight uses a photo for free (and, in fact, my experience is that producers sometimes approach me and ask to use images for free) and then that report is uploaded to YouTube where people watch it for free, then where is the income for the photographer?

The BBC producer and all the Newsnight staff have been paid their wages, YouTube has put its Google ads alongside...

How would you feel if you went into work tomorrow and you were told you would no longer be paid because someone else though you should work for free?

Will photography cease to be a profession in the future and rely on amateurs?

I think a whole new rethink is required in terms of broadcast copyright. One could argue that a picture used on the program describing a person, place or era is by default 'fair use'. I mean one has to ask oneself, since when did individuals own culture? I know in Syd's case he makes the majority if not all of his income from royalties. But he's still a cultural icon that requires discussion; therefore using his pictures, interviews and music to discuss him, I put is 'fair use'.

Unfortunately these days, what was once considered 'fair use' is no longer. In part the BBC as with other major broadcasters are at fault, they have decided that perhaps they should pay royalties on everything they use that is in copyright. Not only has this led to copyright holders demanding ever more increasing fees, but has also meant that when a copyright holder cannot be found, the work is subsequently dropped and never used.

I am not saying that Mick shouldn’t receive payment for the use of a body of work that belongs to him. If that picture was to be used to advertise a product or used as artwork for some particular project, then I would say that the copyright holder deserves recompense. But to insist that a fuzzy picture shown for a few brief seconds on newsnight as part of a documentary is hardly call for any payment.

I am aware that lines in the sand need to be drawn and that all to often it’s very difficult to see the edges. But the current system whereby broadcasters automatically assume that fees should be paid only adds to the current frustrations about a distinct lack of ‘fair use’.

As Bill Thompson reminds us, copyright was a contract that was given to artists by government that included a ‘fair use’ provision. Fair use was the ability for the user to disassemble and assimilate copyright ideas into new ones. Accept these days this is considered theft. The Verve sampled an orchestration on their song "Bittersweet Symphony" from The Rolling Stone's "The Last Time". This was a sample that they had even agreed royalty fees for, but the Rolling Stones management wanted more. In the end the whole song was handed to the Rolling Stones, this also included the grammy that was picked up by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Can anyone here argue that the Rolling Stones deserved it? And if so, how? This is a clear example of big money muscling in on smaller artists to gain big profit.

In answer to your question, ‘should YouTube be getting away with it’. My answer is that you the broadcaster have made your bed as it were. You decided to pay fees for ‘fair use’, the copyright holder decided to up the fees because you could afford them, thus leaving the individual user with virtually no ‘fair use’ rights whatsoever. I can only hope that YouTube take these copyright holders to task over this, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

  • 64.
  • At 03:07 PM on 04 Oct 2006,
  • Orville Eastland wrote:

A few of my thoughts-
1. Like a number of people here, I'm not a UK user, but I love the BBC. I appreciate the BBC's posting of some things on their site, but I would like to find out more things, if possible, which is one reason I like YouTube.
2. I don't like viewing obviously illegal stuff, which is why I don't normally watch the episodes. However, i do enjoy watching things like brief clips from episodes, with specific scenes, or clips edited into music videos.
3. The music videos raise another question. These aren't being sold for profit, and they don't have the same uses as real music videos or CDs. That said, they could be considered to be violations of both the BBC's rights and the music artist's rights. (Incidentally, if I find a video with a song I like, I try and buy a legitimate recording.)
4. Now for the "fair use" question. I agree that the BBC is within their rights to stop people from posting whole episodes of shows. But, what if someone just posts brief clips of, say dramatic scenes or a character's introduction, or just funny moments? Would that fall under "fair use"?
5. Those of us overseas who would like access to more BBC content- would there be a way for us to subscribe to a subscription-based service? While I'd be willing to pay the full license fee, would there be a system if, say someone just wanted to see a few shows? (BBC news, Songs of Praise and Doctor Who are all shows I'd be glad to pay for. And that's only for starters!)
6. As for RealPlayer, I have an older version, which I haven't registered, and I can easily access the stuff on the BBC's website.
7. Finally, some shows may not be able to be rebroadcast, even by the BBC. (Songs of Praise, for example). Whoever posts them isn't infringing the BBC's rights as much as the rights of others.

Perhaps the BBC and their lawyers should work out a "fair use" policy. They should also show more clips on their site, and perhaps allow for more "collaborative" projects like remixing the News 24 theme. BBC certainly should "advertise" on YouTube. Finally, they should allow individuals to support the BBC in ways above or beyond the license fee or buying BBC stuff. (Perhaps a BBC online fund?)

Youtube is implementing content scanning technology, which at the very least will identify copyrighted material in a more proactive fashion ( this is also key should it wish to really expolore revenue opportunites ).

  • 66.
  • At 12:01 AM on 07 Oct 2006,
  • Gary Jordan wrote:

I'm sorry but I can't understand why all the fuss?

It's not as if uploaders make any money from the material is it.

If you have already paid once for a record say, what is wrong with wanting to see a video for it?

MTV and the like do not show my kind of music and if this stuff was released by BBC and record companies alike on DVD then there wouldn't be a problem.

And as for the statement about the use of an image of Syd Barret used in Newsnight, why should Mr Rock get more cash for his image? aint he got enough? the BBC paid for it which means in effect we the British public did.

Just take a look at This weeks TOTP2 (and last weeks and probably next weeks as well)you will soon realise that the footage has been shown before on TOTP2, why? when there is footage that remains unseen since first tx in the BBC archive.

Take a look at the internal database to see what the BBC musical performance video Archive is like.

You will be astounded to learn that some fantastic performances survived the mass wiping/junking of tapes, I know I have them.

Come on get real this is the 21st century for gods sake the artists have made their wad of cash ten times over when they released then re-released the records, is it our fault that they spent it all? on lavish parties big mansions fast cars ect ect oh and don't forget it was our money that paid for it all and that includes BBC TV performances.

It's all about money not copyright infringment so why doesn't the BBC have it's own archive channel accessed by simply inputting your TV Licence ref No or is that too easy?

  • 67.
  • At 06:50 PM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • patrick wrote:

oh well, i have been watching youtube since my small nephew introduced it to me two months ago. I mainly watch youtube for south park and other animation clips. It is very fun to watch. I love Youtube. I am definitely a fan.
however, i know that by watching it without any commercials, the creators of such good shows are losing opportunites to profit and at the same time losing incentives to create more great works....
I just heard Youtube was acquired by Google for a big sum of money. That is nice. I hope Google could transform Youtube into something that Youtube founders couldn't do so far. A future medium of broadcasting that encourages content creators to produce more wonderful works.... So far Youtube has not acknowledged the contributions from content creators. Of course, they would say otherwise. However, anyone can say anything in words.
Youtube has opened a pandora box. I guess soon we will see a lot of new internet broadcasting, some like Youtube, others in different forms. I guess Google has a responsibility now to set a good example for all internet broadcasting companies in the future to follow.

  • 68.
  • At 06:28 AM on 23 Jan 2007,
  • Fabian Bastidas. wrote:

It is rather funny. I have never visited YouTube but I have heard about it a lot. I have read all these posting s here and there seems to be a problem. It appears the problem is about money, about who gets the consumers' money. That's what our money oriented society is all about. Gone are the days where a story teller would entertain us with their stories by the camp fire, not for money but just for fun. But I am just wondering if they are really gone... or just the means of communicating taken away from them by the big "publishers" and "broadcasters". As for me, I am tired of the big ones. I find the little ones, the unknown, more interesting, more original, and pure. I think I will visit YouTube now, not to see the copyrighted material but the real thing.

I am a channel owner at You Tube and I am also a copied designer in the UK and I have recently had to research this topic as my daughter had a "cover" version of a popular song for which she has full performance licences in the UK removed from You Tube for alleged "copyright infringement".

So- I feel that I speak as a copyright owner and a You Tube member who can see both sides of the issue.

You Tube are pioneers in the video/vlogging world on the internet. Fact.

You Tube contains copyright infringing material. Fact.

You Tube is a a great place for people to interact on several levels of expression and is beneficial, for the most part. Fact.

You Tube are "broadcasters" in the mechanical sense and account holders/content uploaders are what film makers are to television. Fact.

For the moving picture (the basis of You Tube) a mechanical licence is required OVER AND ABOVE the normal copyright requirements. Fact.

WHO pays for the mechanical licence? Mechanical licence fees are based on criteria known to the broadcaster and is, traditionally, the broadcaster's, and NOT the film maker's, responsibility.

In the case of You Tube the SOLE responsibility rests with the film maker but this is not made clear by You Tube.

In other words You Tube seek to relinquish the traditional responsibilities of broadcasting. Likely, for reasons to do with the fact that they do not perceive themselves as traditional broadcasters, and are seeking to find their way in this "brave new world". All well and good, but it still unfair to their account holders.

Yes, a copyright owner can cause You Tube to remove material which they allege infringes their copyright. It is extremely simple and workable. The link to the form to fill in appears under every single video on You Tube.

But when the shoe is on the other foot- ie. you have NOT infringed a copyright (perhaps because you have PAID for your licence(s), as well as YOU can, considering you cannot be expected to pay the mechanical licence on YouTube's potential viewing figures) you are deemed "guilty until proven innocent". And in order to attempt to redress the balance you are expected to permit the claimant service of process over yourself.

So- You Tube's current practice is to BE broadcaster, not to abide by generally accepted rules/regulations for the privilege, and to treat their "product" (channel holders) as though they were independents in all matters legal.

While I agree that seeing re-uploaded episodes of Scrubs is tedious I do feel that the judicious use of music/video clips in film-making (even the playing of a favoured piece of music while vlogging is, strictly, illegal) such as the Rocky theme in a piece of amateur film, or a piece of news footage to make a point in a vlogging political debate should not be weighed in the same light.

In the case of music "cover artists" such as Mia Rose, YsabellaBrave, and Esmee Denters can help promote music which might otherwise not reach certain generations/sectors of the music listening society.

For example- a 15 year old singing a cover of Just The Way You Are may interest her peers/friends/subscribers enough to let them discover Billy Joel for themselves.

And as long as that 15 year old has paid for her performance licence and ensured that tagging is done fully and legally the mechanical licence fee can be determined and You Tube as the broadcaster could arrange for this to be paid to the copyright owners.

Sigh... Big topic and I want to thank everyone who responded. It has been very interesting to read everyone's opinions on the matter.

It is clear that changes need to be made to the copyright law(s). It is clear that it is not all as simple as someone's entire videos/films being uploaded simply to replay what already exists.

There are people on You Tube who only borrow elements of the original, copyrighted work and who would gladly pay for the privilege. As has been so eloquently argued above- culture relies on the promotion of art. This is a way of doing it which can have benefit. For everyone.

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