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YouTube, Subpar Video Sharing June 26, 2006 – 3:24 p.m. – Permalink

Part two in a series entitled “The Downfall of the Web.”

When I first heard of YouTube, I thought it was one of the best ideas for the Web yet: shared video for free and a large community to share and upload them. However, my first impressions about YouTube quickly morphed into a critical attitude of this website’s meager offerings and exaggerated encouragement of “video creativity.”

YouTube skyrocketed into fame after being founded in February 2005 by former employees of PayPal. It was the fastest growing website according to Advertising Age, but quickly gained an ugly reputation for copyright infringement and a lack of quality. Already people are watching seventy million videos on the site a day, which is why “MySpace blocked YouTube”.

According to the about page located on YouTube, you can:

  • Upload, tag and share videos worldwide
  • Browse millions of original videos uploaded by community members
  • Find, join and create video groups to connect with people who have similar interests
  • Customize the experience by subscribing to member videos, saving favorites, and creating playlists
  • Integrate YouTube videos on websites using video embeds or APIs
  • Make videos public or private–users can elect to broadcast their videos publicly or share them privately with friends and family upon upload

In order to do most of these items, you need to register. And to register you need to adhere to the terms of service, part of which says that when you submit a video “you will not ... publish falsehoods or misrepresentations that could damage YouTube ....” It’s widely understood that most websites and Web services are not democracies, but I would not want to register for a site that did not allow any lies to be told about it. It isn’t particularly appealing.

Also in the terms of service is text stating, “If you are a copyright owner or an agent thereof and believe that any User Submission or other content infringes upon your copyrights, you may submit a notification pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” When YouTube hosted a video showing the beating of Reginald Denny during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, journalist Robert Tur, who owns the rights to the video, sued them. Even though he contacted YouTube’s corporate counsel numerous times, he was unable to reach them, directly contradicting YouTube’s terms of service.

Furthermore, the Denny video could be considered as being violent, when in the terms of service it states explicitly that nothing containing objectionable material can be uploaded. YouTube observes its videos very leniently and only acts when a user suggests that a video is objectionable. Numerous objectionable videos remain on YouTube, another indication of their dishonesty.

ITV News recently reported that YouTube was encouraging a fad in Britain called “happy slapping.” People would film the fights on their cell phones and upload them to YouTube. Many such videos still remain, relating to the incident surrounding the Denny video.

NBC and CBS have both recently struck deals with YouTube (when previously they criticized the site for hosting copyrighted material owned by them) to upload promotional material from both companies in order to bolster their publicity. I see no point whatsoever in doing this, as it will eventually serve to be a mistake.

In the end, one sentence summarizes the lesser–known nature of the site: YouTube is full of contradictions and shallow lies.

Update (September 15, 2006): Universal Music Group (UMG) is filing a lawsuit against YouTube for copyright infringement. Thanks, Brian!