Gamers caught up in YouTube deal making?

Interesting juxtaposition of stories involving YouTube and music in the last couple weeks. Last week, AllThingsD broke the news that the launch of YouTube’s unconfirmed but widely expected mobile music streaming service has been delayed until sometime next year.

Here’s the nut, from Peter Kafka:

YouTube already has the licenses it needs from music owners to launch the service, but I’m told that the company isn’t satisfied with the product itself.

One issue for YouTube’s team to figure out: The best way to integrate user-generated content, like lipsyncs and mashups, along with conventional recordings and videos.

Then this week, all hell broke loose on gaming blogs over an apparent widespread crackdown by YouTube on Let’s Plays and game-related channels, often affiliated with multichannel networks like Machinima, over their unauthorized use of copyrighted material in footage used in game walk-throughs.

The rash of take-down notices appeared to be generated by YouTube’s ContentID system and seemed to be focused primarily on the music included in game soundtracks rather than on the use of game footage itself. Some game publishers, in fact, quickly disavowed the crackdown and urged the owners of the YouTube channels not to comply. Many, although not all, game publishers see significant promotional value in the walk-throughs, particularly those by popular presenters, some of whom have hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

I suspect the two developments are related. Earlier reports suggested that the licensing deals YouTube was negotiating with the record labels and publishers for its streaming services included unprecedented provisions that covered the use of music in user-generated videos like wedding videos with popular songs in the background. Almost certainly, however, the price YouTube paid for that forbearance was a commitment to crackdown on the unauthorized use of music on the site that falls outside the use cases spelled out in those contracts.

The gamer channels, in other words, may have become victims of YouTube’s larger mobile streaming ambitions.

Harsh as that may be for gamers, there is also a lesson in there for copyright owners generally: sometimes you can get more of what you want through deal-making than through complaints and litigation.

 

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Paul Sweeting

Principal Concurrent Media Strategies

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