DAVOS, SWITZERLAND-On the final full day of the World Economic Forum, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley revealed one of the big plans in the works for the Google-owned video-sharing site: a way to share the wealth-literally-with its thousands upon thousands of content providers.
Hurley expressed the hope that in the coming months, in order to reward the community and foster its creativity, some sort of payment system would be made available, though few details were shared at the conference.
YouTube is one of the great success stories of the user-generated content trend of Web 2.0; with seventy million videos viewed on its site each day and no signs of slowing down, it has proven itself time and again the leader in online video distribution. But with money on the table, the site may need to rethink its policing policies; Hurley informed the audience that intellectual property rights would need to be protected in any rollout of payment systems.
In late January, only days before Hurley’s announcement, Twentieth Century Fox served YouTube with a subpoena to reveal the identity of a YouTube content provider who uploaded four episodes of the popular television drama “24” ahead of their airing. But spilling the beans on a new show isn’t the only legal entanglement YouTube’s gotten itself into; in December 2006, NBC ordered YouTube to take down digital copies of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that had been posted to the site. There is also the matter of the ever-vigilant RIAA, which has in the past sent out threatening cease-and-desist letters over the YouTube phenomenon of people dancing for their Webcams to their favorite songs.
The list goes on; from music videos to hit songs to television programs to feature films, be they old or new, chances are if an intellectual property is for sale, it’s also up for free someplace on YouTube. The point is that clearly, such content cannot entitle its enterprising posters to financial compensation.
Hurley and his panel also addressed the concern over posting politically sensitive videos, such as the recent cell phone video of Saddam Hussein’s execution.
Clearly, there will be several logistical kinks to be worked out to keep YouTube’s profit-sharing scheme on the level-and that’s even before addressing what the actual process of sharing money with producers will look like. If it fails to materialize, no fear-the business of the Internet is full of big plans that never quite come to pass. But if it works, both logistically and legally, the move will represent a new era in Web 2.0 user-driven portals-namely, profitability, for both businesses and for that most unpredictable element of the Internet, the end users.