There may be a new copyright sheriff in town, but this sheriff won't be locking anyone up. MyVideoRights.com is an online video advertising service that monitors unauthorized usage of copyrighted materials in web video. Instead of shutting down the illegal clips, the company then works with the rights-holder to earn income from the material in the form of advertising. After great success in the U.K., My Video Rights is bringing their business model to the U.S. market.
Unauthorized usage of copyrighted video is rampant online. Every day there are videos released and enjoyed containing a preexisting work in one form or another. Typical examples include mash-ups, overdubs, supercuts, and parodies.
After years of struggling to fight this piracy through take-down notices and legal battles, rights-holders are beginning to see the value in taking a different approach. By leaving the offending videos up, and placing advertising on them in the form of pre-roll or post-roll spots, they can make the piracy work in their favor and turn a profit.
The StreamingMedia.com article openly states that My Video Rights move into the marketplace makes sense because sites like YouTube don't do anything to actively fight unauthorized usage. Which is pretty wrong, to be honest. YouTube's ContentID has been actively fighting unauthorized usage of copyrighted video for more than a year now. It's already made waves for doing exactly what My Video Rights plans to do:
- In 2010, the JK Wedding Dance video went mega-viral, and the video featured a song by artist Chris Brown. ContentID identified the illegal usage of the song, and notified the rights-holder. Instead of demanding the clip be removed, the label placed ads on the popular clip, with links driving viewers to iTunes to purchase the song. Even though the song was 2 years old, it then climbed back up to 4th on the iTunes charts.
- Later that year, AMC & the producers of Mad Men made a similar decision after ContentID notified them of unauthorized usage on thousands of YouTube videos. They let ads run, deciding that a little revenue plus the potential new viewers that might result from leaving the clips up was worth the piracy.
So there's no doubt that YouTube is actively seeking out unauthorized usage. A better argument for My Video Rights' opportunity in this market would be to say that YouTube can't properly keep up with the sheer amount of videos that are uploaded. That I would believe.
But there's something even bigger going for My Video Rights: ContentID is only on one platform. Granted, YouTube is clearly the largest platform for online video. But millions of viewers spend time every day watching clips on sites like Vimeo or DailyMotion--or on customized players through the Brightcove platform. My Video Rights, from the sound of it, is hoping to strike deals on behalf of rights-holders with any and all platforms where unauthorized usage is discovered. I imagine even YouTube would be included in that group.
The company already has successful relationships with a number of top rights-holders of U.K. content, including BBC Worldwide. When video clips owned by those customers are found online, My Video Rights negotiates on their behalf to arrange for advertising agreements. They have a fantastic video on their home page showing off all the content they represent, but it's not embeddable--probably to stop pirates from unauthorized usage. However, they do have a clip on their Publishers page, showing off a soccer video they helped their client place ads on:
My Video Rights may have an uphill climb in winning over the U.S. market, particularly where YouTube is concerned. Hollywood has been slow to warm to alternative piracy solutions in the past, and those that are willing to leave illegal clips up are probably already comfortable dealing with YouTube and ContentID. But that doesn't mean they won't succeed. In fact, I think this is a market that's probably going to see several competitors jump into the fray.
As web video grows, illegal usage of copyrighted material is only going to grow as well. This new kinder, gentler approach to combating the issue is a much better solution than the old, iron-fist method of dealing with pirates. Rights-holders can earn money and exposure for their material, and amateur video creators are permitted to continue using a clip they might not otherwise had access to. Everyone comes out well in the end when this kind of system can work.