Warner Music Group (WMG) was the first company to strike a revenue sharing deal with Youtube. The deal (put simply) included WMG getting a share of Youtube advertising revenue in return for allowing the copyrighted content to be published on Youtube either in the form of “original” WMG content (music videos, etc.) or in the form of user generated videos using WMG content (for example a video o your mom snoring with Madonna’s “Bedtime story” playing background).
The deal granted the users the freedom (though not absolute) to use WMG material in their videos. Nice, but who cares, right? Well, the story got interesting two years later when WMG decided to ask for more money and Youtube refused.
Users’ videos containing WMG stuff either got muted or pulled down. You could image the users were not to happy with that. A host of user rants and comments ensued, some quite feisty!
The WMG saga is an interesting example of how online communities engage with copyright restrictions. To make things even more interesting, last week WMG decided to once again join forces with Youtube. Some users are just happy that they can use WMG music again, others are more apprehensive. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Among other things, the WMG incident shows how online communities largely depend on corporate whims and interests, even in cases where copyrights restrictions do not apply (say, fair use). Plus, it forces us to acknowledge a host of questions related to ownership of user-generated content, models of revenue sharing, systems of copyright enforcement, user activism, etc.
Just watch the video, and you’ll se what I mean. ((parental guidance advised))
A playlist of user responses containing 90+ videos is also available on Youtube.