YouTube vs TechCrunch – a reminder about copyright

TechCrunch, a very popular tech blog, has a post about a letter its founder, Michael Arrington, received from YouTube’s lawyers demanding that TechCrunch withdraw a software tool it developed and published to help YouTube users download videos from YouTube.  YouTube’s lawyers complained that TechCrunch’s tool facilitates a violation of YouTube’s Terms of Use in that YouTube videos are intended to be streamed from the site or through embedded players in websites and not downloaded.

Here is the letter Arrington received:

While Arrington disputes YouTube’s contentions, the letter and a follow up he received from YouTube’s general counsel raise an important point.  It is tempting to get caught up in the file sharing culture that is so prevalent these days and at the same time it is important to remember that these file sharing sites have terms and conditions that govern the use of those services.  These terms and conditions dictate which rights you give up when you upload your content; what you may do with that content and which forms of content may not be posted.  We may have a 60s-style culture of sharing and link love but there are parameter for this sharing that are essential if these companies don’t want to be sued out of existence.  A good example of how a file sharing site can go wrong is the recent Grokster case in the United States (a summary can be found on Wikipedia).

So read the terms and conditions published by your preferred file sharing site before you start uploading content to the site and before you make use of the service in a way that does not appear to be sanctioned by that service.  One illustration of the need to read first, act later is the recent concern about YouTube’s terms of service which seemed to transfer all rights to YouTube in respect of users’ content.  YouTube updated its terms of use and made it clear that users retain ownership of their content and merely licenced the content to YouTube.  There are sites that do, however, seize ownership of your content and this could have a serious impact on your business if you rely on your content to make a living.  Some of these sites go so far as to contractually assume copyright over that content and restrict your use of the content you generated through acceptance of their terms and conditions.

Let the publisher beware!

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