Law in the Internet Society
-- HoangTruong - 23 Dec 2008


YouTube initially began in February 2005. By February 2008, YouTube had become an online monopoly for online videos, grabbing one-third of an estimated 10 billion views of online videos that month, up from 15 percent at the same time just a year before. YouTube is at the forefront of the technology revolution that has given the masses an explosive new medium to create and access media through the Internet.

  • Actually, YouTube is primitive technology, consisting solely of a weakly-organized drop-box gallery for proprietary-format Flash videos. It has none of the richness of a transformative medium that would facilitate editing or merging of material, remaining essentially just a bulletin board you pin video to. Its commenting and tagging facilities are famously ill-used, by the stupidest and most obnoxious comment flow on the Web.

But what will YouTube’s impact be as it evolves? The answer to that question is certainly unclear with plenty of room for innovation and implementation of the technology. Steve Jones, professor in the Department of Communication and associate dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, thinks that “It’s probably safe to say that, over time, as this generation of high school and college students gets older, they will be quite open to getting what we would consider television content via YouTube, and they would probably be comfortable getting other kinds of content via YouTube. So in that respect, I think YouTube has begun the process of moving video to IP-based distribution, independent of traditional or cable networks.”

  • Really? OMG! Mr Jones is not exactly an original thinker, is he? Why not just say that yourself in one sentence, rather than spend a paragraph finding an authority willing to be quoted that the sky is blue.

The Price of Artistic Freedom

The encroachment of YouTube onto the traditional realm reserved for the television is a topic that can take on increased relevance in the next few years. YouTube have given anyone with access to the internet, the opportunity to broadcast either themselves, or other sorts of video media, onto the internet. This ability to “create” culture instantaneously has created a cultural revolution that has transformed our society overnight, a society where anyone in the world can transmit content over the internet to millions of eyeballs. Much like the printing press freed the words of authors to the mass, and the telephone connected people across the globe, YouTube has mass produced and provided the rise to a new medium of artistic expression: personal videos. In the past, the difficulty of creating and distributing artistic works that is available to the masses has traditionally restricted the creation of art and culture to a minority of society. With the advent of YouTube, anyone anywhere can become not only a viewer of culture, but also a creator.

  • Why bother calling all this YouTube? Broadcast delivery of video doesn't make any more sense in the age of the net than broadcast audio, so television is melting and becoming one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many packet streams. This is basic stuff. You can't get any credit around here for knowing that snow falls and flowers rise.

The ability of anyone anywhere to upload videos that he has seen has also provided a medium that has created a “!YouTube” culture. This form of social interaction has superimposed the traditional daily sharing of experiences that used to happen over the dinner table; today’s dinner table seats millions of people who can instantaneously communicate and share with each other experiences that they found comical, endearing, or interesting.

Such artistic freedom comes with a price, however. Ever since its launch, YouTube has fueled controversy with its sometimes controversial content. Videos of violent acts have sparked a debate over political arenas across the world, with some pointing a figure at YouTube and its failure to regulate content. YouTube was at the center of a controversy in Florida where teenage girls attacked another girl and posted their ambush on YouTube.

  • As relevant, of course, as charging photography with being responsible for various photographed misbehaviors. It does not help us to understand something to mention the most idiotic of responses to it.

Jane Brown, professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, agreed. “I wouldn’t say it’s a catalyst [to violence],” she said. “It gave the girls a way to promote themselves that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. A lot of media glorifies violence, and there’s so much interest in celebrities these days that it seems a logical extension that adolescents would think, ‘Hmm, if I’m in a video and I get lots of exposure, I too may get some kind of notoriety.’”

  • That is also a remarkable insight that could have been put by you in eight words. I suppose that Google makes every jejune comment by every pedant immortal, but quoting other peoples' fatuousness is not good writing.

YouTube’s Call for Increased Regulation

Moreover, with the instantaneous broadcasting ability that YouTube affords the masses, the time for a call for regulation of online videos is coming. With the ability to reach so many people at the same time, a person scorned by a business deal or a relationship can easily use online videos as a medium to commit libel and defamation. Furthermore, with the complex interactions of the Internet, YouTube, and the media, people in the public eye are scrutinized more heavily than ever before. Presidential candidates now will experience a chilling effect on their ability to converse freely with even ordinary voters, for one miscue to a voter can be recorded by a cell phone and broadcasted over the internet immediately over YouTube. Thus, YouTube has not only allowed everyone with access to the internet to develop and view videos, but anyone with a cell phone now has the power and clout of a more traditional news journalist or paparazzi.

  • Uh, it's a little more complicated than this. At this stage in the conversation, after the obvious has been said on both sides, the higher returns are to subtlety. One could say, I suppose, that Obama suffered a chilling effect that made him cool, but otherwise it would be difficult to reconcile the Google-popular opinions advanced in your first paper with the conflicting Google-popular opinion you are advancing now. More likely, it's time to leave the platitudes behind and strike out for your own new insights.

The development of online videos as a medium has many more positive possibilities than bad eggs, however. Such can be seen by the level of civic participation evident in the questions submitted by the people, for the people in the presidential YouTube debates of 2008. Along with the increase in interest in civic participation, YouTube can also be attributed for making candidates stand by their political positions. With the broadcast of every single political statement and position, the common citizen can use organizations that fact check claims of our political candidates and then instantaneously condemn candidates that contradict themselves.

  • How does one justify even an imprecise statistical proposition like that in the first sentence (ratio of positive possibilities to bad eggs--expressed, I suppose, in the unit of possibilities per egg), with a dimensionless quantity--civic participation expressed in video debate questions? The writing here isn't merely florid: it's indicative of an overt absence of analytical responsibility.


In sum, YouTube has become a valuable new medium that rivals the inception of the telephone and the printing press as a method to transmit art, opinions, and other content to an innumerable amount of people instantaneously. Since it is still in its early stages, it is too early to say what positive and negative affects the introduction of such a dynamic medium will have upon society. With the positives of increasing knowledge amongst the public and freedom of expression come the negative effects of allowing unfettered freedom of speech. This unfettered ability to reach so many people so easily can tempt people to broadcast harmful videos that can defame through slander, and incite the public sentiment with obscenity oour violence.

  • Not even the Google PR department could have imagined comparing YouTube to the printing press, unless you mean one particular printing press or telephone among many. And if they had done such a thing, people would rightly have laughed at them. YouTube's obvious goofiness and oversimplicity, featurelessness, disorganization, luggage-locker tackiness and technological underdevelopment don't seem to be clear to you. That video should be first class data in the Web, being reprocessed, repurposed and remixed with the same freedom that text and still images are now doesn't seem to have registered, so you have neither inquired into why that hasn't happened yet or whether it might change. Instead, you make the most ugly and underfunctional of the interim arrangements into the deus ex machina, and begin to wax eloquent about how the scrim beats the play. You need to get closer to the real technical and regulatory issues, I think. We can agree at the outset that television is melting, and that video is just data in the net now. So it's from that point that we begin to have to ask about the technology, politics and law.



Webs Webs

r2 - 03 Feb 2009 - 01:31:34 - EbenMoglen
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM