I was intrigued to see a flurry of posts today about how YouTube is cracking down on unauthorized advertising. Naturally, since YouTube’s raison d’etre is to make videos available for free, they’d like a cut of any advertising revenue associated with the content they serve–particularly since they’re bleeding money to pay for bandwidth. But some uploaders work around Google’s revenue model for YouTube by embedding ads in the videos–in violation of YouTube’s terms of service.
Am I the only person who finds this situation comical, or at least a bit ironic? There’s been a lot of discussion about how newspapers–and publishers in general–are losing revenue because Google is monetizing their audiences through its own ads. But now the tables are turned, and it’s content publishers (though probably not the mainstream media) who are obtaining ad revenue at Google’s expense.
Google is certainly acting within its legal rights; the terms of service make it quite clear that YouTube prohibits unauthorized commercial use, with the noted exception of “uploading an original video to YouTube, or maintaining an original channel on YouTube, to promote your business or artistic enterprise”. In other words, you can promote yourself, but you can’t sell ads. Still, as Lawrence Lessig says, “code is law“, and Google will have an uphill battle to prevent unauthorized advertising without a lot of collateral damage.
I do hope that Google is experiencing a moment of empathy. As Google defends against this threat to YouTube’s business model, perhaps it will better understand what the newspaper industry is going through.