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YouTube – the next Napster?

If you want to share video clips with the world (or that part of it that has high-speed Internet), then you might want to know about YouTube, which has become one of the 50 top websites in just under a year.  Many people are wondering how the site can get away with hosting commercial content like Jon Stewart’s segment, the one on Senator Ted Steven’s foolish explanation of the Internet as just a series of tubes.

Here’s a good article that discusses why YouTube‘s service may not be as vulnerable to claims of copyright infringement as the music sharing sites.  I don’t know that I completely agree with that article, but one thing’s for sure: the era of online video is just getting underway.  Google has gotten into the act, which is a sure sign of ‘mainstreamedness.’  Some lawyers are even starting to use YouTube to advertise their services.  As I said, this online video thing is probably going to be a big deal, just like digital music.  But all of these nascent trends are pointing to something larger.

In the old days only factory-owning capitalists could wield large influence over society, by producing things and then figuring out how to market and distribute them.  After all, factories cost a lot of money, and so did distribution.  Now, for many desirable things (digital music, video, news), the costs of production and distribution are almost nothing (laptop computer + Internet access). When the costs of production and distribution are as low as they are now, you are bound to have a radical power shift.  Big companies will still wield a lot of influence,  but not as much as before and not in the same way.  Niche markets are sprouting up all over the place and the rate of growth in those micromarkets is amazing, and, for the most part, dimly understood.   The staggering implications of this phenomemon are the subject of a book that is now ranked #13 on Amazon (yesterday it was #16).  It’s probably too late for Ted Stevens to figure this stuff out, but most of the rest of us can ‘get it’ if we just try.

Unless you’re under, say, the age of 18, in which case you won’t even have to try.

P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.

One Comment

  • Shawn Lea says:

    The copyright question with YouTube is just about to be checked out. I read somewhere today that a reporter who posted several of his own videos online from the LA riots in the 90s was suing YouTube. The argument was similar to the Napster suit…the site encourages the sharing of copyrighted materials. They say they took the material down as soon as they knew it was under copyright. It should be an interesting test anyways. (But, hey, maybe the reporter found the lawyer he’s using through a YouTube ad anyways!) 😉

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