Home Build Profit Not DMCA Suits: YouTube and the Wedding March

Build Profit Not DMCA Suits: YouTube and the Wedding March

An unconventional wedding march in Saint Paul, Minnesota, sent sparks across the web. Not only was it a celebration of couple

Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz’s eternal union, but it was a shift in how copyright owners can interact with unlicensed content users. After being uploaded to YouTube only 12 days ago, an elaborate wedding dance routine to Chris Brown’s “Forever” has already garnered more than 12 million views. And according to the YouTube blog, rather than blocking usage of their unlicensed property, Sony instead used Google’s tracking tools to monetize.

After content owners provide Google with copies of their assets and ownership agreements, YouTube’s matching engine detects protected works and displays them in a partner dashboard. In the past, rights owners like Warner Music have used the automated ContentID feature to block unlicensed usage including, in extreme cases, serving DMCA take-down notices to machinima makers and amateur singers. In February, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation criticized the system, arguing that it failed to recognize fair use remixing. Said spokesman Fred von Lohmann, “Soon it may be off limits to remix anything with snippets of our shared mass media culture — music, TV, movies, jingles, commercials. That would be a sad irony — copyright being used to stifle an exciting new wellspring of creativity, rather than encourage it.”

Nevertheless, in the case of this wedding video, Sony (copyright owners of Forever) chose to capitalize on the clip’s success rather than blocking the file. They added a simple pop-up overlay that offers users a chance to purchase the song from iTunes or Amazon. According to YouTube, in the last week, the year-old song has risen to #4 on the iTunes charts and #3 on Amazon.

To Google’s glee, Sony’s success in working with users is likely to inspire other copyright owners to rethink their past actions with DMCA take-down notices. And this would be a welcome change for many. Take downs have shown a history of hurting user morale, reducing valuable community content and decreasing channels of monetization for content hosts. In the case of the wedding video, while it’s obvious that Sony made money, YouTube has likely earned profit from AdWords as well as referral revenue from Amazon and iTunes.

Because Sony left the wedding video up, the community continues to receive free hosting and feedback, the copyright owners profit from their licensed goods, YouTube earns new revenue, and the remix community continues to proliferate. Since last week, some of the remixes and re-creations include the Divorce Entrance Dance, a WIS-TV anchor version and the couple’s own appearance on the Today Show.

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