Commentary: YouTube to Share Revenues—But With Whom?

Second, YouTube needs to figure out how to deal with syndication and exclusivity as part of its value proposition. For instance, say YouTube sets up a model that allows higher-quality videos to be syndicated by TV stations that weren’t lucky enough to get stringer video of a particularly timely event. Will YouTube share revenues for that syndicated content if the revenue-sharing model is based on the number of online views or advertisement click-throughs? And, if the content is available from two syndication sites, should the station choosing to opt for the alternate syndicator rather than YouTube, would the content-creating consumer be able to sue YouTube on the premise that YouTube’s business model priced the content higher than the consumer would be willing to charge to make the sale?

Third, YouTube will need to consider whether the boundaries of revenue-sharing are crossed when content takes the form of pure public relations. In other words, will those public relations companies that post video press releases on YouTube be eligible for revenue sharing? If so, will this be perceived as a conflict of interest, and do the PR firms run the risk of being seen as interested parties, profiting from their announcements? Given the recent backlash in the blogging space over bloggers being paid to tout a PR firm’s particular opinion—a flap that caused the PR firm to disavow the use of paid bloggers for the foreseeable future—a pay-for-play model on YouTube may cost more in public perception than the firm and its clients are willing to pay. Worse, would the firm and its clients be accused of exploitation or sensationalism for the sake of jacking up viewership numbers if they produced a controversial piece?

Finally, for those ad agencies or public relations firms—or even local beauty pageant event coordinators—that buy the rights to repurpose professional music or video clips in their own videos, who receives the revenue sharing? Does it go to the original content owner, who has already been paid a licensing fee, or does it instead go to the new content creator, the syndicator, or the ad agency? Perhaps it goes to none of the above, because the new automated filtering systems being installed in the wake of lawsuits against the likes of MySpace will refuse to allow the content to be posted if a portion of the video or audio matches the "digital fingerprints" of content in a blacklist such as the Advestigate database.

In the end, YouTube’s decision to share revenues with consumers who create and consume YouTube videos is a natural by-product of the rise of consumer-generated content. Let’s hope that the minds that gave us YouTube realize the Pandora’s Box of potential complications they’re about to open, and reward the right people and the right content.

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