This announcement by SFDebris is just the latest by a member of the video reviewing community. If you didn’t click on it, he is moving all of his video reviews to his Blip.TV account. CBS made a request to make the host pull one of his “Opinionated Reviews” due to alleged copyright infringement. The show features reviews (and occasional humor) of science fiction shows, with a heavy emphasis on later Star Trek series. He does not post full episodes, but uses clips of the scenes he is discussing, like most other video reviewers.

This is nothing new, as everything from posted episodes to fan video and even music has raised the ire of the owners of the copyright, who feel these free uses infringes in their investment. Since I’ve started doing the occasional video review I’m admittedly no longer just a spectator but am potentially affected. This is why I’ve been concerned about putting the Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah review on YouTube, even though I’ve been cleared for bypassing the 15 minute restriction. (I should put the GoBots “comic” review up, though.) So obviously I have more of an opinion on the matter, and quite frankly I think there are people on both sides of the issue that are wrong.

In the case of SFDebris and other reviewers, I think they are in the right. It’s one thing to post an actual episode (which is also unnecessary, since in this case CBS has their own postings of episodes on their website and even on YouTube itself) but to review it is another story. I’m not even going to get into the debate about shows that the owners aren’t doing anything with, this is just about reviews, which qualify under fair use. Now granted, the host of Opinionated Reviews never appears on camera, unlike reviewers like the Nostalgia Critic, so footage of the episode is the majority, if not entirety (not counting jokes that uses footage from other shows) of the episode, and maybe that concerns them. However, why not contact the host and discuss the issue?

Some time ago, the Nostalgia Critic and then new Channel Awesome contributor Obscurus Lupa were both yelled at by lawyers for the production company of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. While that was eventually worked out, the lawyers were concerned about how the work was portrayed. Both reviewers called the movie horrible, but at the same time so bad that it was hilarious to watch. In fact, they both encouraged their viewers to see the movie, which would mean more money in DVD sales if the fans followed suit. Neither uses YouTube to post their videos, but in the case of the Nostalgia Critic (or rather his portrayer, Doug Walker) his account was suspended because of claims of copyright infringement. This led him to start That Guy With The Glasses.com and aided the rise of the comedic video reviewer as a genre of web-based programming. So something good actually came out of it.

However, there is a question as to how YouTube enforces their rules on copyright infringement, or at least how they screen for potential “rulebreakers”. One example is that reviewers who are part of the “YouTube Partners” program appear to receive no infringement complaints, even with reviews that other reviewers not a Partner have received strikes for. Also, music enforcement has not only affected fanvideo, but video by people who don’t use YouTube for anything other than showing moments to their families or making tributes, often with an accompanying song that sets the mood or means something personal to someone involved. Of course, anyone with RealPlayer can easily take the song and convert it rather easily (I did this for the themes of my two reviews) so I kind of see their point but it still isn’t as good as the quality of the “official” version, or somebody did something wrong.

This haphazard screening process can lead to abuse of the screening process itself. Here’s an example.

Eli Stone, the Cartoon Hero (whose review of the live-action Scooby-Doo movie you may have seen posted here at the Spotlight), recently had his YouTube account suspended along with a number of other reviewers. The accuser was “Crying Wolf Productions”, a company that doesn’t technically exist. While Stone accuses the Irate Gamer, a video game reviewer in the style of the Angry Video Game Nerd whose reviews are rather controversial for the way they’re done, it was later learned that the culprit was a fan of the Irate Gamer that objected to reviews of the Gamer’s reviews. (Yes, reviewing other reviews is now a “thing”. Once reviews became entertainment themselves, it was bound to happen. And Stone’s “commentaries” under ShinobiFlare are the only ones I’ve seen, if only because of his Cartoon Hero work.) So the person responsible had no rights at all to get these accounts suspended.

The fact that YouTube was so easily fooled by this shows the flaws in the screening process, although screening so many videos has to be a very difficult challenge. There’s only so much they can do, but you have to ask why do they have to do it at all? Well, this is where the users themselves have to look to their fellow users because nobody is blameless here. If companies are to be faulted for not working with the fans, then the fans should be acknowledged as being guilty of the same crime. Posters worked on the assumption that once it hits the airwaves it now belongs to the fans to do with as they please. Fan tributes and reviews I think the companies should work with, or using postings of shows and episodes they aren’t doing with should be scanned to gauge what the interest is, and where money can be made.

However, fans need to realize that it is ad revenue that keeps these shows alive. PBS has pledge drives and corporate sponsors, but the only reason their “business model” works without a lot of commercials is taxpayer funding (whether the taxpayers like it or not, but that’s another argument). Let’s use Comedy Central’s The Daily Show as our example, since it was one of the shows that started this situation. Comedy Central looks at the ratings of the show. The more people watching, the higher the ratings and this helps the network determine what to charge advertisers. Much of this money goes into the budget for The Daily Show and as long as it keep making money it will have a decent budget to afford the crew, location shots and interviews, big-name guests, and whatever else the show needs to keep or improve their ratings.

Their theory, agree with it or not, is that if people are watching on YouTube postings by Excelsior283 instead of their TV show, they lose ratings and therefore money. While this concern did push them to start posting clips and episodes on their own site, this didn’t stop the YouTubers who still wanted to watch ad-free. I could see posting a particular clip if someone they knew was on it or to make a point but posting an entire episode does cost the show. And if the show doesn’t make money, you lose The Daily Show. Soap operas are disappearing because the networks are making money off of them, although soap fans claim it’s because they can’t get ratings off of DVR. I would counter that this wasn’t an issue with VCRs and you would think digital recording boxes could be easier monitored by the cable/satellite provider, but that leads to a lot of behind the scenes stuff that takes us off track.

What I would like to see are fans and creators working together to enrich everybody’s experience, but until BOTH sides are willing to work to everybody’s benefit, don’t expect this to be the last YouTube defector, and someday they may come for Blip as well. Posters, creators, and video hosting services need to figure out what they can do to appease the other two groups before it’s too late and nobody gets anything out of it.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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