In the ever-evolving world of online video, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has become an interesting and overbearing conflict amongst the largest video publishers in the world.
Every single day, millions of videos are uploaded and distributed throughout the digital landscape. The question then becomes, who is in charge of policing this content to ensure that original creators are properly credited for their work? Thanks to an emerging market of digital media licensors – specialized companies that discover, acquire, manage, represent, protect, and effectively license videos to third parties on behalf of their clients – content creators can rest a little easier.
It’s Not ‘Fair Use.’ It’s Just An Excuse.
For years, video publishers have employed an open forum mentality where they greatly benefited from the unauthorized use of content.
Never have they been called upon to provide purchase agreements or transaction documents to verify the licensed sale of this content. And because of the combination of loose regulations, general marketplace apathy, and hands-tied approach, anyone could rip or steal content and upload without recourse. The term ‘sharing’ became trendy during the advent of social media, but wouldn’t ‘sharing‘ imply that revenue was ALSO being shared? Where do the original owners fall in this equation?
A majority of these third-party sites and video aggregators rely heavily on the boilerplate language in their Terms Of Service or claim the always-popular ‘fair use’ doctrine to release them of any wrongdoing. While this may free them of liability, they’re really just floating by on technicality. By not doing due diligence or best efforts to confirm the rights holder, they’re pandering to a culture of unethical and dishonest behavior. Fair use was designed as a limitation or exception to copyright law. Not as a default for underhanded tactics.
YouTube, Viral Videos And The Ether
When a video goes ‘viral,’ it has the ability to generate substantial revenue. On YouTube — where majority of all viral videos are born — there are gates and mechanisms in place that allow advertising revenue to be credited to the original poster of the video. But what about the world outside of YouTube? What about the thousands of sites that make up a very large and substantial part of the online video community?
With the unstoppable surge of daily video uploads, creators have become victims of their own popularity. While they are clearly the individual rights holder (with their own ability to file DMCAs), they’ve become desensitized, and even further, indefensible to thousands of websites that unlawfully reproduce, repurpose and redistribute their content without credit or reward. It doesn’t have to be that way. Digital media licensing agencies have stepped in and dedicated themselves to ease the consumer experience, eliminate profiteering, and reward the rightful owners of content.
Mo’ Views, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
Advertisers spend millions of dollars each year on sites that broadcast and feature this video content to audiences. These publishers, fully populated with other people’s content, are charging premium CPM’s to advertisers interested in aligning themselves with a large audience. Whether in video, display, or branded integrations, the greater the views and larger the audience, the costlier it gets. The issue then becomes, why are video platforms — who don’t own or properly license the rights — the ones serving ads around this content and padding their checkbooks?
DMCA takedown notices have been an unfortunate but necessary part of the equation. It’s no different than the constant battle by music labels and movie studios to block the exploitation of their rights. We all believe in the power of shared content to create a digital conversation, but not when a publisher is profiting from misappropriated material.
Where There’s A License, There’s A Way
Licensing agencies continue to approach this battle with steadfast importance. We’re not just securing the necessary rights to license content, we’re fighting tooth and nail to provide our clients with greater transparency and insight into the vast digital video landscape. We’re collaborators, working in-tandem to create new opportunities and new revenue streams. Content owners have a right to know the whereabouts of their content and we have a commitment to protect their intellectual property.
From vloggers to web series creators, production companies all the way down to occasional video uploaders, digital licensing agencies are setting a new precedent for everyone involved.
About the author: Josh Entman is a partner at ChiWay Entertainment, a full-service digital media company specializing in licensing, production, and online video monetization.