July 24, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
YouTube dances the copyright tango
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The losses are equal to what Voltz and partner Fritz Grobe made by posting their clip at the video-sharing site Revver, which shares advertising revenue with clip makers.
The video of the two men creating a whacky fountain through the volatile mix of Mentos and a carbonated beverage was viewed 5 million times. The number would have been twice as high had fans not posted copies of the video on Google Video and YouTube, which siphoned traffic away from Revver, Voltz claimed. YouTube and Google don't share ad dollars.
While it's difficult to say if Voltz' figures are accurate, there's no question he has scrapped with YouTube, though he hasn't taken any legal action. YouTube removed the clip after Voltz complied with the company's "takedown" process, he said.
But that didn't stop others from posting new copies of the Mentos video soon after. The video skyrocketed into YouTube's "Most Viewed" video section. Yet, the company told him that if he wanted the copies removed, he'd have to go through the entire process again for each clip. To keep the material off the site in the future, Voltz said, he was also informed that it was up to him to monitor the site.
Voltz also sent Google a written request to take down several copies of his clip that appeared on Google Video. Google said early Monday that the company complied with the request and pulled several copies of the Mentos clip. Yet, a copy of the clip was still available on Google Video as of Friday.
"We work to remove any content that infringes copyright as quickly as possible," said a Google spokeswoman. "We will continue to remove videos in compliance with DMCA."
YouTube said it removed two clips at Voltz's request and invited him to use a software tool that helps locate video clips. It was designed to assist copyright holders in monitoring the site. Levine said he refused.
YouTube's lawyer said she believes the company's takedown procedure is the best in the business.
"Regarding our DMCA takedown procedures, we are extremely prompt, cooperative and diligent in our responses to content owners' takedown requests," Levine said.
Another way YouTube said it has tried to prevent unauthorized copies from reappearing is a "hash," or unique identifying mark for every video file removed at the request of a copyright owner. Levine said this blocks the exact same file from reappearing on the site.
Nonetheless, at the time of this writing, a copy of the Mentos video remained on YouTube and had been viewed more than 100,000 times.
"I have no problem with the people who posted the clip," Voltz said. "They were just fans. But when I wrote to YouTube and Google to remove the video, that's when I started to get frustrated. There's got to be a system where when we say 'Please don't post our content,' they make sure it doesn't go up."
From a legal standpoint, Voltz' complaints are moot, according to Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
He says the law does not require YouTube, Craigslist or eBay to be responsible for policing sites. More than 50,000 videos are uploaded to YouTube every day, and none of these sites could possibly verify the legitimacy of every post. The sites are responsible for removing unauthorized copies. Copyright holders are responsible for notifying the sites.
"That's not any different than the real world," said von Lohmann, pointing out that music companies and clothing manufacturers must walk the aisles at flea markets and swap meets to search for copyright violators.
What strengthens YouTube's claims are the moves it's made to prevent unauthorized material from being posted to its site. First, the company only streams content, an approach designed to prevent videos from being downloaded (though some people have developed work-arounds). YouTube has also limited video length to less than 10 minutes, a move meant to discourage people from uploading entire TV shows or movies, he said.
And more changes are anticipated, according to Lohmann, who added: "I expect that YouTube will no doubt improve their notice and takedown process as well."
CNET News.com's Michelle Meyers contributed to this report.
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