Anyone who cares about video remix culture — which should include every regular visitor to this site — may want to re-think their use of YouTube in the wake of its decision to formalize its relationship with big media companies. The threat to indie artists whose companies fail to reach an agreement with YouTube has been widely publicized. But an article in The Daily Dot suggests that an entire creative subculture based around YouTube may be in danger as well. If a big media company objects to a mashup, Brooklyn-based video artist Elisa Kreisinger discovered that YouTube now seems quite willing to completely ignore the Fair Use provision of U.S. copyright law and similar, international legal allowances for parody and remixing.
It took 24 hours to create my mashup, but 10 months to get to the bottom of why it was blocked. And even after I discovered why it was blocked, I still could not get it back up. If large content companies have the power to usurp the rule of law for their own purposes and make anything disappear, why bother making mashups?
YouTube was the birthplace of the mashup. And because it is the largest video site on the Internet, it’s important that cultural critiques like remixes and mashups be here for public consumption. But now mine, and so any others that drew from Universal’s library, remain disabled.
YouTube describes itself as “a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe.” But a forum that gives big members extra powers to silence everyone else will never be as vibrant as it should be. To be the forum it aspires to be—that it should be—YouTube needs to stop cutting special deals with big rightsholders like Universal Music Group and start encouraging creativity again. That’s true even if creativity makes Universal Music Group uncomfortable. If YouTube doesn’t get rid of special deals, they threaten to kill the very originality that made the site great in the first place.
Read the full article at The Daily Dot. And remember: videos posted at Vimeo or Dailymotion, for example, can go viral just as easily. Technologically speaking, there’s nothing special about YouTube, and I don’t think it needs to be nearly as dominant as it has become. There are other video-hosting sites that are much more committed to freedom of expression.