YouTube's plans to sell ads may have been secret, but they're not terribly surprising to anyone who has been following the rebel video site. In the short time it has taken for YouTube to become wildly popular underground, many have wondered when and how the site would try to cash in.
But YouTube faces some unique obstacles where advertising is concerned. In addition to carrying content that could scare off traditional advertisers, it must address the crucial question of copyrights.
Copyright holders are often willing to look the other way when their work is used without authorization, so long as it's not being used for profit. But the equation can change overnight, both legally and competitively, once the protected material is used by another party to make money.
YouTube has already drawn the attention of TV networks over copyrighted broadcasts. If the site profits from advertising sold alongside other copyrighted material, those types of objections could multiply.
Blog community response:
"It's unsustainable to have volunteers steal content and upload it. Eventually lawyers will kill the copyrighted material, and original contributors will realize that while fame is nice, they'd like a 'piece of the advertising profit' that YouTube generates."
"YouTube serves up tens of thousands of copyrighted videos every day, but those videos were not put online by YouTube. Individuals did that. In YouTube's case they can at least argue that they made no effort to acquire copyrighted material, and that it's the user's fault for uploading it in the first place."
--We Are The Media
"For those with long memories, this evokes some deja vu going back a decade, when first AOL and then Yahoo! tried, with mixed success, to sell community and chat areas dominated by younger users, to mainstream advertisers."
--*michael parekh on IT*