News: The General Counsel of NBC Universal Rick Cotton has stated that NBC supports the ability of users to reuse and remix copyrighted shows. As I reported last week, NBC already allows free download copies of many of its shows on its website. When you couple this free dissemination of NBC copies online with Rick Cotton’s statements, it appears that NBC has bought into the mashup/remix culture of user-generated content that relies upon preexisting copyrighted works.
Here are some of Cotton’s statements:
“They can choose to download commercial free episodes of our TV shows or watch free, streaming, ad-supported programs on our websites. We’ve offered fans material from “Battlestar Galactica” and “The Office” to create mashups. And we expect to expand those offerings both on our websites and on Hulu.com.”
“But, looking forward, one of the exciting characteristics of the new, digital world is that technology will allow us greater flexibility to respond to consumer desires.”
“It bears repeating that short-form mashups, parodies and the like are NOT the primary focus of content owners’ anti-piracy activities. Let’s be clear that sympathy for parodies and “re-interpretations” should not be used as a justification for inaction in addressing aggressively the wholesale trafficking in complete, unchanged copies of movies and TV programs. Having said that, most major content owners today want to see fans fully engage with their favorite content and are working hard to provide legitimate ways to do that.”
Analysis: NBC Universal should be applauded for its stance on remixes and mashups, as well as for allowing free downloading of many of its shows online. If I take Cotton’s statements at face value, he basically gives his blessing to noncommercial remixes of NBC’s copyrighted shows. I would not have expected this kind of position from a Hollywood studio. But I hope NBC doesn’t scale back the free stuff and start selling all of its shows on iTunes (for more, see Mashable).
I remixed my Mazda video, shortening it to 3 minutes. It’s faster. (For the background to this video, visit here.)
News: NBA announced a deal with YouTube to deliver basketball highlights on YouTube. Also, the NBA is holding a contest for people to send in their best basketball moves. See the video below. (Sorry, my best BBall moves would not make anyone’s highlight reel.) Even more exciting, on the NBA’s own site, users can apparently create their own mashups of NBA basketball highlights on NBA Highlight Mixer, through which you can synch in music from the NBA library. This is fantastic! I wonder what Mark Cuban has to say now.
News: USAToday ran an article “Mashups add splice to movies,” which discusses how people are taking movie trailers (and apparently sometimes the movies themselves) released by the movie studios and re-editing them in their own provocative ways. Writes Janet Kornblum: “The Shining is a romantic comedy, Mary Poppins features an otherworldly nanny who frightens innocent children, and Apocalypto is Mel Gibson’s secretly anti-Semitic tirade. It’s also a Zach Braff coming-of-age film. And have you heard about the Titanic sequel?” Movie studio Fox Atomic even has its own website, which allows users to freely mashup movies in the Fox library.
Analysis: Mashups are very dicey under copyright law, no pun intended. Fair use is judged on a case-by-case basis, but it is somewhat risky to take parts of someone else’s copyrighted work and use it in your own (especially when most of the end product is just other people’s works). This past week, the RIAA even had DJ Drama arrested for an alleged criminal violation of the Georgia racketeering statute RICO for his unauthorized commercial use of copyrighted songs in his mixtapes (more here). But that’s a pretty extreme case involving an entire commercial business of making mixtapes. The mashup videos on YouTube probably don’t make their creators any money, and I doubt the mashups compete against or substitute for the originals in the minds of viewers. This may explain why Fox Atomic has already embraced the mashup for its movies. And the USAToday article doesn’t report any movie studios that have, as of yet, complained. It might be that the mashup movie trailers help to promote the original movies, at least in some cases.
News: The most significant development at this past week’s Consumer Electronics Show — and perhaps the most significant development in broadcast TV for the past 25 years — was the keynote address by CBS CEO Les Moonves. Why?
Moonves this week announced deals: (1) allowing users of SlingBox to “mashup”– meaning cut and splice–CBS shows at their own pleasure, and (2) airing the best 15-second YouTube videos on CBS, the first to air before this year’s Super Bowl. Moonves has clearly embraced the Web 2.0 technologies, and intends to allow users to use CBS content in their own creations. Said Moonves, “There’s no such thing as old or new media anymore. We’re just media.” (YouTube is now even thinking of having its own TV shows and channel.) This is on top of CBS’s current deal to run parts of shows, like Letterman and NCIS, on a channel on YouTube.
And perhaps his most important admisssion: “We learned a lot watching what happened to the music industry with Napster, and we’d like to avoid those mistakes.” (More)
Analysis: I don’t like making predictions, but a decade from now we may look back at this decision by CBS as the defining moment for a huge transformation in broadcast TV, which propelled it into a completely different model of providing content to users–from a couch potato model to the mashup model. Web 3.0, here we come. If you want to create a video for the CBS promotion on Super Bowl Sunday, go here.