Enjoy those nostalgic clips of a credible O.J. Simpson calling memorable NFL action while you can. Chances are that soon you won't see that or anything like it on YouTube.
The Web video-sharing site is planning new software that will search and destroy copyrighted material uploaded to the Web site without prior consent of the rights-holder. That software is slated to be put into use next month, in response to a March lawsuit by Viacom and other suits filed by the UK Premier Football League, the National French Football League and music publishers Cherry Lane and Bourne among others.
In the interest of full disclosure, YouTube was acquired last year by Google, which owns Blogger, the host for Time Stops For No One. Which of itself speaks to the issue at the very core of this debate: who has a right to intellectual property?
Is it the artist who creates it? Is it the producer who packages it? Is it the distributor? The end seller? Or is it, at least to some degree, in the public domain?
Ironically, Google, along with Microsoft and Yahoo, is at the other end of a lawsuit accusing sports leagues, book publishers and others of trying to stretch the purvey of their copyrights too far.
Such convoluted debates and strange bedfellows are nothing new in the world of the Internet, only about a decade into wide popular use. YouTube is microcosmic of the speed at which the World Wide Web grew, blossoming in two year's time from a way for one family to share pictures into the largest video sharing site on the Web, and spawning any number of copycats and competitor sites along the way. Much like music-sharing site Napster before it, YouTube is being attacked by established media companies for a dissemination of content that is copyright-protected in realms such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines.
Do the rights that media companies and record producers have held in traditional formats necessarily translate to the Internet? Businesses like the National Football League would say no. The NFL is limiting the use of video gathered at its training camps by newspaper reporters to 45 seconds on the papers' Web sites. Naturally, newspaper companies are up in arms. Why should there be a limit on the video they gather, the newspapers argue, when there has never been a limit on column inches? The National Collegiate Athletics Association, or NCAA, took a similarly controversial step this spring, when they banned live-blogging at its baseball championships because, they argued, it infringed on the exclusivity that television rights holders have to immediate information. Internet rights were a key point in negotiations leading up to this summer's new deal between the National Basketball Association and its television rights holders.
And so the fight between wealthy corporations rages on. And the Internet, which originally began as a forum for scholars at universities and colleges to freely exchange research and information, becomes more of a limited-access Information Superhighway, available only to those willing to pay up first. Is the public truly better served by yet another breeding and feeding ground for multimedia conglomerates than by a vast, easily-accessible library of information and cultural artifacts?
No, it isn't. And it is up to those of us who believe the public edification is a greater asset than corporate wealth to say how we feel about this matter. Before all means of communications are taken aw ... [THIS SEDITIOUS CONTENT EDITED BY GOOGLE, INC. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS AMERICA.]