The online animation community has gone bonkers today, talking about the recent crack down on YouTube by the big guns, notably Warner Brothers. YouTube has in recent months become a wonderful repository for classic animations that are otherwise unavailable, trapped beneath the weighty ownership contracts of corporations too apathetic to release them. Yesterday, in response to a scary letter from the WB, You Tube arbitrarily purged a whole host of files, including some that rightfully exist within the public domain. This is stupid. It is stupid of WB and stupid of You Tube.
Most of the Spite Your Face catalogue has been released virally online, so we couldn’t fully control its distribution and representation if we tried. We only come down on people if we find sites hosting our films without the correct credits, or if they are hosting a rubbish bootleg that has had our tags and watermarks removed. In such instances we usually offer a link to a better quality copy with our URL embedded, which works out better for everyone. We do this because we and our clients both recognise, that the democratising effects of file sharing also create huge indirect advertising revenue.
This is the future, and this is how Hollywood should be playing it. Instead they have taken the Napster route, hypocritically coming down against a form of distribution that, three years from now, they will be happily utilising and manipulating for their own cynical ends.
I’m surprised at YouTube too. SYF have, to date, an excellent relationship with YouTube. Recently I posted our viral catalogue on there myself, before I did this however I made a point or having them remove the huge number of bootlegs on there, mostly because they were badly stretched or had our tags removed. At the end of the day we want everyone to find our films, but we also want them to know who made them and know who funded them. We also have the good sense to realise that if we ever released our films on DVD, say, that a bunch of crappy YouTube copies floating around is not going to be detrimental to our potential market.
YouTube were helpful and responsive in aiding this editing process, but most of all I was surprised to find myself dealing with an actual human being – not just some ugly automated process. It has been my experience of their staff that they will consider each case of copyright infringement individually. So I’m surprised at this mass purging, but at the same time, feel it might be worth people contacting them about specific files they have had removed.
In practice, YouTube is essentially a huge advertising portal where the public willingly promote corporate products to one another – just look at all the thousands of ‘music videos’ that fans have edited from popular shows like Naruto. From that perspective, it makes about as much sense for WB to clamp down on somebody posting Cartoon Network content, as it does for them to go into the streets and strip the Daffy Duck t-shirt from some kids back.
Spite Your Face also have a huge presence on Veoh, a rival video site of which Michael Eisner is apparently a major shareholder. Repugnant as I find the idea that Eisner might be generating revenue for our content in some obscure way, if You Tube go all Napster shaped, instead of integrating sensibly with license holders while remaining free and open, then their audience will migrate elsewhere.