Thursday, June 21, 2007

Copyright in the Digital Age: Web Hoster Bolts on Popular Blog Site

The issue of copyright in the digital, online age is the subject of ongoing debate amongst the owners of content, and those who publish it. If I have a personal Website, can I simply take photos from other Websites and post them to it without permission? Can sites like YouTube be a vehicle for funny commercials, news segments, and music videos without dealing with repercussions from content owners?

Widely popular Hollywood celebrity blog site (it reportedly receives millions of visitors monthly) was recently shut down. The interesting part of this news is that this was not forced by owners of copyright photos for which the site’s owner has been accused of “stealing” (although several of them have pending lawsuits against him). The site was reportedly taken down by the company that actually hosts the Website! Apparently the web hosting firm was sick of all the copyright infringement suits, and must have figured it would bolt before things got really nasty.

Readers might remember not too long ago, when hilarious skits from music artist Justin Timberlake’s appearance on Saturday Night Live popped up on YouTube. Clicking on them shortly after they were posted would result in a disappointing message: “this video is no longer available.” It’s safe to assume that NBC wasn’t happy. But wait: wasn’t this good for the network, to have people flooding the 'net with proof that its late night show, which many have shrugged off as having lost its appeal, was still funny? (Sidenote: In March of this year, NBC announced that it would collaborate with News Corp. on their own Internet video distribution network, so at least the firm has recognized the value in content distribution on the Web).

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about scantily-clad paparazzi pix of Paris Hilton, clips from a night time comedy skit show, or digital photographs from a world-renowned photographer: there is arguably a glaring “grey” area when it comes to issues of copyright online, and several online content publishers are teetering on the line between what is right and wrong.

Sure, right now we’re talking about a cheesy, Hollywood gossip site. But I truly believe this could end up being a landmark case for issues of copyright infringement online, specifically in relation to the use of photos, but potentially leading to other areas.

Meanwhile, several reports on the Web indicate that another web hosting company has jumped at the opportunity to pick up, so stay tuned as the saga continues!

(*Sidenote: Literally as I write this, I checked and the site is up and running again!)


Hostimal said...

Very nice article, from now I'm following your blog.

Patrick Ross said...

FYI, on the SNL video, both the popular video about going to see the Narnia movie and the later one about an "anatomical item" in a box (with Timberlake) were available on NBC's own web site (the latter was posted censored as it was on TV as well as uncensored, which I thought was great on NBC's part). It's new venture seems to be a recognition that web surfers might not always want to go to each producer's site but instead wish to see many producers on a licensed aggregated site. But they and others such as Disney, CBS, Viacom and News Corp. have been offering extensive video online for some time. I think they just like to have their rights recognized and have a say in how the creative works are used.

Marketnews - Christine Persaud said...


thank you so much for your compliment, and I hope you continue to enjoy the content on this blog. Keep your comments coming - feedback of any kind is always appreciated.

Marketnews - Christine Persaud said...

hi patrick,

I totally agree with you. On the flip side, one could argue that any exposure is good exposure, so why not embrace the amazing way your content can be distributed to millions that may not have been aware of it otherwise, instead of fight it? Having those clips on NBC's site means they come from NBC. Having them on YouTube means that someone with an impartial view deemed them worthy enough to let others know "hey, look at this!"

I really think the underlying issue is compensation and not having in say in how the creative works are used. But that's just my opinion! And the ball is slowly rolling in the right direction as companies like NBC, CBC, and the NHL begin to find ways to work in partnership with firms like YouTube, and celebrate the power of the 'net instead of be threatened by it. There IS a way to make all parties involved happy, and we WILL eventually get closer to that point.

Thank you for your feedback - it is always welcome! :)

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