I am fascinated by viral video. Videos like the Eepy-Bird Mentos and Diet Coke video are brilliant examples of how viral video can make, or break, a career.
But that same video is also an example of how copyright law can be a murky pond of green goop. The video, which was posted at the Eepy-Bird website and powered by Revver, was quickly copied and posted to YouTube. The group got most of these bootleg copies taken down through a legal process, but it wasn’t easy.
They were concerned that it was cutting into the profits from advertising that they would receive from Revver. On the other hand, it helped their popularity and they now find themselves appearing on popular television shows and performing in Las Vegas and other venues across the country (for the non-media appearances, I assume they get paid).
I wonder would this have happened without the viral pick-up from YouTube? It’s hard to tell.
Viral content is a little messy and the ROI isn’t necessarily immediately apparent, which can be a problem in corporate culture. Corporate culture needs to measure and quantify everything, especially if it has shareholders, and something like viral video isn’t controllable. But the viral video Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” which was launched last year on the Super Bowl, was released onto YouTube earlier this month and has already received triple the viewership of the commercial. (via Woolard Speak)
YouTube’s new owner Google announced today that it is giving itself a $200 million piggybank against against future infringement lawsuits.
And no wonder, everyone seems to want a piece of the viral pie, the advertising revenue alone is reason for owners of copyrighted material to take notice. And it seems the more popular the video, the more likely it is to trigger a lawsuit. As Jason Fry, the Real Time columnist for the Wall Street Journalist explains it:
“This is the YouTube curse: If a clip gets a lot of viewers, it immediately falls under scrutiny — and if it's copyrighted material, as is often the case, the clip may well be removed, leaving useless links and frustrated viewers in its wake.”
For a great primer about copyright issues for bloggers, there is a great tutorial for social media types at Tubetorial. Also, today on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, there was a great show with an opinion from a real lawyer (I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on viral video) and Jason Fry concerning YouTube specifically.
Would love to hear your take on what the future of viral video might be. Will fair use win the day? How do owners of original video protect their stuff from illegal distribution or from being constituted into a new work?
Photo by eatmydesign