The Dark Side of Online Video?

The Dark Side of Online Video?Just as there are white hat and black hat hackers, SEO companies and just about everything else in the world, there is also black hat online video…the so-called pirates. But where is the line drawn between legal and illegal video and where is the line on morality?

Currently, UStream, privately held with venture capitalist injections, is being sued by Square Ring for allowing an unauthorized live feed of the Roy Jones Jr. vs. Omar Sheika fight to some 2,377 viewers. The plaintiff contends that the stream was illegal and was a violation of copyright laws. They're probably right. Many online sites, both live streaming and otherwise tend to have a lot of streams that could be construed as illegal. Generally, they revolve around sporting matches that at times are pay-per-view but generally are simply not available outside of a local broadcasting area and have no Internet availability.

Is it right? Well, nearly every sporting event does have a 're-broadcast or re-transmission without express written consent is illegal' disclaimer after them so yes, I guess it could be construed as illegal. Certainly allowing a live stream of a pay-per-view event is illegal. But is it immoral? Again, the pay-per-view situation is as it is taking potential revenue away from the broadcasting entity by drawing some viewers to the Internet to watch freely instead of paying for the show.

Is it copyright infringement?

Sec. 106. Exclusive rights in copyrighted works

Subject to sections 107 through 120, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

    (1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;

    (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

    (3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

    (4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;

    (5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and

(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

Hmm…It is reproduction of a sort but it's not for rental, lease or lending therefore it might not infringe on the rights of the copyright owner. However, one might state that watching it is indeed lending even though there is no physical product exchanging hands.

The DMCA on the other hand states that the online-service has some liability limitation for the online services from their user's activities. Which is what Ustream is claiming in their particular case. The DMCA states that a service must make the allegedly infringing material unavailable until determination of it's legality. Whether or not Ustream did is what needs to proven. The lawsuit states they did not co-operate and did not provide take down tools which could sink the boat for them.

In other cases, no, I don't believe it is immoral. If the show in question is being broadcast locally and has no online venue or external availability, I don't believe it to be immoral. Copyright infringement? Questionable. Illegal? Probably, but immoral it is not. In fact, some might view it as providing a service.

For example, I'm a football [soccer] fan, I like English football and have a favorite team [Manchester United] whose matches are almost never broadcast here in the Czech Republic, nor are they always available through available cable and satellite channels here (Galaxie Sport being the major provider) and not at all online via the league. So if someone supplies their local television broadcast to the web for those in areas where it is unavailable, it does not seem immoral does it? (Yes, I know I'm opening a large can of worms here).

We, as people in general, want what we want, when we want it. If there is no way to get it, someone will invent one. If it's illegal, it will be sued, closed, sold, bought, changed, rebuilt, and relaunched [Napster]. There are thousands of shows, sporting events, movies, etc… that are not available in all parts of the world, especially live broadcasts of them. So is allowing others to watch something in real time which would otherwise be unavailable to them illegal? What about allowing them to watch something at a later date which would still be unavailable to them?

These are all questions that are currently being considered across a series of high profile lawsuits including companies like YouTube, Viacom, Veoh and Autodesk. The largest is Viacom vs. YouTube/Google in regards to some 160,000 alleged copyright infringing clips. Also suing Youtube is the Premiership [English Football League] and surprise, surprise, the masters of litigation, music publishers who in the past have even sued the pants off of a grandmother because her grandson downloaded something illegal on her computer.

But the question remains, is it immoral? Hell, in some cases the question even remains whether or not it's illegal… Perhaps if the sporting organizations, instead of constantly attempting to sue everyone and their grandmother, took more proactive approaches to getting their content online for a reasonable rate, like the MLB, unlike the NFL, and with reasonable quality, many, like myself, might not resort to going online (not naming any sites…) to catch our favorite teams play in a timely fashion. In the end, all their effort would probably pay off with higher profits as sports are indeed a worldwide phenomenon and many would be happy to pay in order to get a good, solid, uninterrupted feed online. I certainly am (way to go MLB!).

In related news, DirecTV is running a pilot program in Manhattan that offers their NFL Sunday Ticket via broadband to subscribers, but the price is daunting. $299 for the broadcast version PLUS $100 for the broadband version. So for $400 you can watch more than just two games at a time. If you buy directly from the NFL, it's only $239 and gives you 'over 250 games for the whole season.' Want to just watch your team? That will be $209 please (that's $13 a game). Just a month of access? $69.99. One week? Just a measly $24.99.

See what I mean about needing a reasonable price? MLB.tv? $34.95 a year and lets you watch every out-of-market regular season game LIVE (almost 100 games / week), and listen to audio coverage of every Postseason game (without blackouts).

The opinions expressed within are solely those of the author and in no way reflect those of ReelSEO, it's partners, advertisers or anyone affiliated with the company in any way. Come get me if you have a problem…


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About the Author -
Christophor Rick is a freelance writer specializing in technology, new media, video games, IPTV, online video advertising and consumer electronics. His past work has included press releases, copy-writing, travel writing and journalism. He also writes novel-length and short fiction as part of Three-Faced Media . View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Steve

    I agree with you 100%

    Those companies need to join the 21st century. The days of charging outrageous prices or slamming the door entirely to people who want to watch something are over.

    Many people will pay a reasonable price for access, even if a 'pirated' free option is available, but one way or the other they're GOING to watch it. …and if ustream & justin.tv can stream for free – then any cost those companies charge to legit viewers would have to be pure profit.

    iTunes mostly gets it right as an alternative to pirating music, so maybe these guys should also realize they must embrace the technology (and huge potential world wide audience) and shift their methods away from a 20th century mentality.

    But I guess they'd rather sue everything in sight, flailing around like a bear being brought down by a pack of wolves. :)

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