Monday, February 20, 2006

NBC Threatens Video Sharing Sites

Photo Coutesy NBC

Underneath a lengthy New York Times headline , reporter John Biggs reports today that A Video Clip Goes Viral and a TV Network Wants to Be the Only One to Spread It. In a previous post I touched upon Smart Mobs, these groups of users that connect with each other on their own through email and instant messaging. The Forrester Group calls these emerging connections" Emotive Networks," which it defines as interconnected groups, "composed of individuals engaged in communication and support."

Some of us may prefer to forge our friendships in real time. But there's a whole new media-obsessed pack out there that thrives and communucates by passing along links to "cool" content. These connected buddies hang together in cyber-pace and can create a collective viral bllzzard overnight with just a few taps of their digits on the computer keyboard or phone pad and a cut and paste command.

You have heard about " talking drums" in Africa, used to spread the news? It works. I know. I have watched viral campaigns in action transmitted by drummers while I lived with the Dogon in Mali. Today's Smart Mobs don't use drums. Read my post about Western Union Stops Sending Telegrams: Text Message a Loved One Instead

Lazy Sunday Video Clip: 5 Million Views

"Lazy Sunday", a satiric rap video that stars Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg of "Saturday Night Live" was first broadcast by NBC on its website on Dec. 17, 2006. Since then a Smart Mob of netizens have watched this clip a total of five million times.
The clips is now hosted at one of the free video-sharing sites which posted the clip.

Most network chiefs would be thrilled to see their content promoted in such a viral fashion, building cool online chatter, notes Biggs in today's Times, "The online popularity of "Lazy Sunday" has been credited with reviving interest in "Saturday Night Live" at a time when it is in need of some buzz."

Not NBC.

Opening Salvos: No Creative Commons Here

No Creative Commons here. The opening salvo has been fired . NBC lawyers have threatened You Tube with legal action under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The company would rather sell the clip online at iTunes for $1.99 or post it for free viewing on its branded site.

Some may call this short sighted, for publicity like this can't be bought. Smart Mobs are quirky and highly selective. "VH1 and other television and movie producers were increasingly putting their own clips, trailers and music videos on YouTube in hopes of jump-starting their own viral phenomena," says Julie Supan, senior director of marketing for YouTube.

No Chump Change

Do the math. NBC has. $1.99 paid 5 million times can quickly add up. As I wrote before, that's no chump change.

But will Smart Mob users like Ben who has his own blog, pay to download video content when there's so much out there for free? Ben, 19 years old, tells his fellow Netizens " I ripped this. It's at the address above...there's a link to it in a .zip file, in .mp4 format."

Flowers and Chocolates From NBC for YouTube ?

Boing Boing Blog says that NBC "should be sending flowers and chocolates to YouTube, not nasty-grams from lawyers. The free video on the NBC site can only be played But only Windows users can access the video on -- the site in general is kinda buggy for non-Windows users."

Copyright Troubles Ahead for User-Posted Content ?

The New York Times article continues,

Julie Summersgill, a spokeswoman for NBC Universal, said the company meant no ill will toward fan sites but wanted to protect its copyrights."We're taking a long and careful look at how to protect our content," she said.

YouTube and others in the new wave of video-sharing sites have so far managed to avoid major legal problems even though they often carry copyrighted material without permission.

"This is an example of the copyright troubles that are waiting for YouTube, Google Video and all the other video hosting services that rely on user-posted content,"said Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

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