News: At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley announced plans to share revenue with people who post videos that become popular on YouTube.“We are getting an audience large enough where we have an opportunity to support creativity, to foster creativity through sharing revenue with our users,” Hurley said. “So in the coming months we are going to be opening that up.” (More here)
Analysis: I’ve listened to some YouTube users’ reactions, and they see this development as both good and bad. The fears are that YouTube will lose its “community” ethos and become just another “corporate” site. On the other hand, some people spend a lot of time creating videos for YouTube that generate traffic to the site, so why shouldn’t they get paid? Both sentiments strike me as legitimate.
I’m more fascinated by the copyright issues that could become more intensified under a revenue-sharing model. If the video creators are profiting from videos that are based in part on some copyright infringed clips, and if YouTube pays those creators, then the claims of copyright liability against both the creators and YouTube becomes even more serious. Once money is involved, the video creators’ “borrowing” of content from others — let’s say some copyrighted music synched without authorization — becomes even more tenuous under fair use analysis. And YouTube’s position with respect to the creators would become more akin to an agency relationship, potentially opening it up to stronger vicarious liability claims. Without a concrete plan to examine, it’s too hard to say how serious these risks are. But any plan would obviously need to consider the copyright issues raised by revenue sharing.