YouTube has long been a popular site for watching and listening to music on the Internet. But now YouTube users around the world have been fighting back against the website after Google (who owns YouTube) and the RIAA threatened to sue YouTube-MP3.org, the leading YouTube/Mp3 conversion site, last week. That independently run site allows users to extract and download Mp3 files from YouTube videos. Users need to do little more than copy and paste a YouTube link into the site to retrieve a quality mp3 of the video.
As of this week, Google has blocked the offending site’s servers from accessing YouTube, and is threatening legal action unless it shuts down operations within 7 days. It’s obvious why YouTube wants to take down this site – it violates their Terms of Service and takes away from potential revenue. This lost revenue is not necessarily from the record labels, but from missed view counts and ad streams. These are 2 factors key in YouTube’s ongoing efforts to monetize content.
So the major question is does YouTube’s Terms of Service override the fair use doctrine, the right to record public broadcasts for private consumption? And why is Google so unwilling to even negotiate the matter with You-Tube-Mp3’s owners? The service seems like it’s something they could potentially work with to bring in more revenue, and avoid legal hassles. But the owner’s of YouTube-MP3.org have reported that other than a cease-and-desist letter, YouTube’s lawyers have refused to make contact with them.
Everyone knows that times are changing, and even if the powers that be are successful in shutting down YouTube-MP3.org, undoubtedly, other new technologies will appear allowing users to do the same thing. Battling against illegitimate copyright infringement is perfectly understandable, but some would argue that Google is working harder in this case than they are to take down illegal downloads from search results.
Given that the question of fair use in this case is still an open question, it appears that Google and the RIAA are wasting time and resources that could be better allocated to finding a profitable way to change and grow with “Free Culture".