Wow, this is kind of scary. I wrote how YouTube was a business based on copyright infringement and used all the SNL skits on their service as an example. Now SNL has come down hard on them. [ Update: Rafat took the time out to mention my last post in relation to the SNL action--Rafat is so on point. ]
Now, let me say that a couple of things:
1. YouTube does not deserve the #1 listing on Google for Lazy Sunday. YouTube’s traffic is based on exactly this phenomenon: content owners don’t put their content online, some users pirates the content, and YouTube–the only place to get the pirated content–becomes the #1 Google search results.
2. SNL obviously got more from the viral nature of this promotion than anything they could ever buy. They should put every single one of the skits on the Internet *for free* and put an advertisement in front of them. They would be making at least 1M a month from this within six months. SNL should also put skits that didn’t make it on the show on the Internet, as well as bloggers and other colaterial material. In fact, in short period of time SNL will have more value online than offline.
3. YouTube knows they are a heaven for pirates, but I don’t think they should be shut down for it. YouTube is the telephone company and they provide dialtone. What people do with that dialtone is up to them. I beleive that.
4. YouTube is not a real business (or an innovative business). This is my main point. Let’s not look at YouTube’s page views and claim they are some amazing business. Napster and Kazaa had a ton of traffic too–it just wasn’t web-based. If you could do an Alexa graph of Kazaa, BitTorrent, Usenet, and the old Napster they would be number one through four on Alexa!
Watching DIGG, Engadget, and MySpace climb in the rankings? Those are real businesses. If those sites added the ability to distribute stolen video in two clicks they would shoot up to the top 10 sites!
Let me break it down: YouTube and other video hosting sites have made it easy to pirate stuff on the web (which is where piracy started), but they shouldn’t be positioned as some revolutionary business. It’s a silly, little business that anyone could setup in a week. The fact that folks are talking about them being bought for some large amount of money by Newscorp is commical. They are a glorified FTP site with TAGS people! I could set this up in a weekend with two kids in high-school and a couple of cases of Red Bull. In fact, the first two programmers to email me with a decent resume I’ll back you guys to build a YouTube compeititor–provided you can build it in under five days.
3. SNL has the right to have their stuff taken down, and taken down quickly. As do the other folks who are having their content stolen daily (think MadTV, Dave Chappelle, etc). However, those folks should put some free stuff up and link to paid stuff to strike a balance between piracy and not having their content available.