June 2, 2006

Viral video sharing is new headache for music biz

By Brian Garrity

NEW YORK (Billboard) - As the recording industry tries to
block file trading of songs across peer-to-peer networks, blogs
and other viral distribution channels, the major labels
suddenly have a whole new piracy concern: music videos.

The rise of user-generated content sites like YouTube,
MySpace, Google Video and iFilm has sparked a revolution in the
viral sharing of music videos across these Web communities. The
problem is, much of the distribution taking place -- outside a
select number of promotional deals -- is happening without the
approval of record companies.

In recent weeks the Recording Industry Association of
America has been stepping up its efforts to stop sharing of
popular videos on such sites, particularly on the rapidly
expanding YouTube. The site, which now claims more than 6
million visitors and 40 million streams daily, has become a
haven for unlicensed music videos, which users are capturing
with TiVo and other digital video recorders and then posting
the files to the Web. Much of the material is coming from
recorded MTV broadcasts.

The RIAA recently issued cease-and-desist letters to
YouTube users sharing videos from the likes of Nelly Furtado,
Beyonce and Rihanna.

In the wake of the takedowns, users following links to the
video are greeted by this notice: "This video has been removed
at the request of copyright owner the RIAA because its content
was used without permission."

Reps for the RIAA and YouTube declined to comment.

However, one source close to the situation says that the
recording industry is lobbying YouTube and other viral video
sites to implement content-filtering technologies to identify
and block unauthorized distribution of copyrighted works.


Among YouTube's competitors, early attempts at filtering
solutions are bearing out in various ways. A search on Google
Video for clips from commerce partner Sony BMG yields only
video-for-sale offers, while searches for videos from other
labels' artists produce unauthorized video postings. MTV's
viral video unit iFilm allows only music videos that it can
monetize through promotional deals or ads. Meanwhile, MySpace
-- which has promotional and ad-supported music videos with the
labels for a designated music video area of the site -- also is
seeing unauthorized videos pop up in its viral video area.

The major labels are taking the position that these sites
are responsible for policing their own communities. But in the
meantime, they have been targeting individuals who use these
sites to share popular music videos, alerting them that they
are distributing unauthorized works.

Those efforts have produced decidedly mixed results thus
far. Many of the videos that labels have requested be removed
have quickly resurfaced on the site in a matter of days -- a
fact that industry sources suggest supports the need for more
stringent filtering by all viral video specialists.

Viral video sharing would not have been an issue just 18
months ago, when the labels still viewed music videos as a
promotional tool for selling albums. But today videos are a
rapidly growing money-maker for the music business. The RIAA
estimates that sales of music videos topped $3.7 million in
three months, after being introduced in October. Meanwhile, the
major labels also are sharing in the profits of ad-supported
video-on-demand offerings from AOL, Yahoo, Music Choice and

That is revenue the music industry is keenly interested in
protecting. Hopes are that YouTube and others will ink similar
deals with the industry in the long run.

One industry insider familiar with the situation says, "The
recording industry has an important antipiracy goal in music
video to ensure that business moves forward."