It’s one thing to turn a blind eye — as some networks do — to the uploading of pirated content that occurs daily on YouTube, MySpace and other social networks and services. To use one potential metaphor, it’s like the approach that some countries take to prostitution or marijuana: They know it’s out there, but as long as it doesn’t cause any trouble then they’re okay with it. It’s quite another thing, however, to do what MTV is proposing to do, which is to actually place ads alongside the content that is being infringed. That’s like legalizing prostitution or marijuana use and taxing it.
According to an announcement today, MTV has teamed up with MySpace and a company called Auditude to do exactly that (I mean sell ads next to copyright-infringing videos, not legalize prostitution and marijuana use). Theoretically, that means the network — and MySpace — could benefit any time someone uploads a clip from The Colbert Report or South Park or a music video, based on the advertising that Auditude inserts into the clip. As the LA Times story notes, YouTube rolled out similar technology earlier this year, giving copyright holders the option of monetizing their content rather than removing it. And some are taking that offer.
As more than one person has noted, the approach that MTV Networks is taking seems a little ironic, given that its parent company Viacom is still suing Google for $1-billion in a long-running copyright infringement case. Will that kind of lawsuit go away, as more content providers try to monetize their content wherever it appears, rather than suing to have it taken down? I hope so. What if Auditude or YouTube offered its identification technology as an open API, so that video clips posted by people like me could include ads? I think that would be a great solution. Bring it on.