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YouTube Hunting Music Videos

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YouTube is working to build a library of every music video ever created, according to Reuters. The content, which YouTube co-founder and CTO Steve Chen said he hopes to acquire in the next six to 18 months, would be offered for free.

This being YouTube, any talk of a business model was obfuscated. But surprisingly, two major labels–Warner and EMI–went on record saying they were working with YouTube on the project.

“We’re obviously interested in legitimate use scenarios and trying to broaden those, and our focus with YouTube is how to be partners while protecting our artists and ensuring they get paid,” said Michael Nash, senior vice-president of digital and business development at Warner Music.

Everyone is trying to get a piece of the YouTube hype these days. comScore issued a press release yesterday saying YouTube had broken into its top 50 sites, with 16 million unique visitors in July (but behind Yahoo Video and the surging MySpace Videos, as Matt points out). And of course, yesterday’s six-hour YouTube site outage did not go unnoticed.

The Reuters article did not discuss amateur music videos a la the Chinese Backstreet Boys, which in my opinion are some of the most entertaining stuff online. It’s unclear if the labels are going to play the copyright card on the lip-synch issue. I looked into it a while back and every lawyer I talked to said fair use would not apply here. YouTube and the RIAA refused to comment about allegations they were issuing take-down notices for the videos. According to the WSJ, Universal was lobbying other labels against letting the lip-synching videos go free.

Google, meanwhile, told me the labels have indicated they are fine with lip-synchers–until of course they started to make money off their Internet celebrity. Hunter Walk, product manager for Google Video, said “The record companies are interested in finding out where this stuff is going and how they can catch up to it.”

What would be really cool is if these YouTube-music label talks end up with some kind of allowance for music video mashups and the like. Or maybe Google will be the one to make that breakthrough. Google has an opportunity to push YouTube hard on video, and it seems to be finally flexing its power. When Google put video on its homepage last week, Hitwise recorded a single-day doubling in traffic to Google Video.

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