MyVideo: buying users and refusing to share

There was some attention paid to MyVideo‘s offer to users to send in short, news-worthy video clips for publication on MyVideo in return for a payment of R1 000 in the event the video clips concerned are deemed by the “Editors” to represent “exclusive, compelling and responsible piece of breaking news”.

When I first heard about this offer my thought was that MyVideo is trying to buy traffic to their site. Since Zoopy and TWAC launched, MyVideo has had to deal with some pretty solid competition. I don’t think that is the best way to build a fan base but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. The offer isn’t a terrible offer, in principle, because it does still stimulate awareness of online video and the power of the person out there in the street with a decent camera/cameraphone so the whole thing about paying people to make submissions was the promotional equivalent of slightly off milk.

Vincent asked me yesterday what I thought about the offer so I went to the site and took a closer look at MyVideo’s terms for this offer. Turns out this whole thing is really a “competition” (not that this really makes much of a difference) and the rules are as follows:


1. This Agreement shall be governed by the law of South Africa including but not only the Copyright Act 98 of 1978 (the ‘Act’). Words and phrases defined in the Act shall have the same meaning in this Agreement.

2. The mere physical act or acts associated with sending by or on behalf of the assigner (including the author or agent) of a cinematograph film to MyVideo shall be deemed to represent an offer of assignment of copyright for a price of R1000 (one thousand rand), and a non-exclusive licence to publish and use the cinematograph film in its discretion subject to the right of revocation on one calendar month’s written notice.

3. In the event that MyVideo chooses in its discretion to accept the offer of assignment of copyright of the cinematograph film, payment to the assignor shall only be made in the event that the assignor signs and returns a written assignment of copyright within the time allotted for that purpose.

4. This Agreement shall additionally incorporate and be subject to the ‘Terms of Use’ published on MyVideo website (, save that any conflict shall be resolved in favour of this Agreement.

The first paragraph is a sign of what is to come. When I read that I realised immediately that there would be some copyright claim over the submissions that that already changes that slightly sour milk taste to very off, green-sludge-remnants-of-milk taste (bit like that scene in Minority Report when Tom Cruise’s character grabbed the wrong bottle from the fridge after his eye transplant op). But that was just the beginning. The second paragraph takes it a bit further and what it means is that when you send in a video clip (either yours or someone else’s), that act of sending it in is an offer to hand it over to MyVideo and give up your rights (or the author’s rights) in the video clip and a license to MyVideo to publish and use the video clip the way it wants to use or publish it (although you can revoke this license on written notice).

The third paragraph is an interesting one. It implies that if MyVideo accepts the offer to hand over the keys to the kingdom (so to speak) you will have to sign a written assignment of your copyright in the video clip and send it back within an unspecified period of time or you won’t be paid. That is pretty sneaky.

Aside from the paid incentive to submit content (I believe that people should want to send in content because they love the site) this whole arrangement smacks of old-style land grab thinking that is really not about the community at all. In his comment on Vincent’s first post about MyVideo (the second post is here), Rowan Polovin had the following to say:

MyVideo is the first in SA to promote purely ‘video’ news content generation among genuine and would-be journalists. And by ‘would-be’ journalists we mean virtually anyone with a video camera or cell phone that happens to be there when breaking news happens (in fact far more likely to be there than ‘genuine’ journalists). MyVideo is serious about original content generation among South Africans, and this feature aims to spur this on. That is why we are putting our money where our proverbial mouths are. I wouldn’t be too pedantic over the semantics of the press release, and think we should rather focus on the greater vision of genuine news creation amongst South Africans.

If MyVideo was all about original content generation and the community then let Polovin put his money where his mouth is and instead of grabbing all the rights to videos submitted to MyVideo, MyVideo should license the video clips from the authors of those video clips using something like a Creative Commons Attribution license, regardless of whether video clips are selected as deserving of the R1 000 prize. Rather than the “Editors” choosing winning video clips, let the MyVideo community pick the winners (or at least have a say). I don’t see why MyVideo should have to take over all rights in the video clips at all. That is not in the interests of the authors of those videos. It is completely self-serving. Didn’t these guys ever learn to share when they were kids? One of the other things that gets me is the MyVideo tagline: “Watch and Share videos the South African way“. I really hope that these sorts of land grabs are not typical of the “South African way”.

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