Blog Post

Online Video is NOT a Crime — Yet

OK, creative types, time to crank up the volume and craft an HTML bumper sticker like the old skateboarding ones, saying this time: Online video is NOT a crime.

Of course, you’d never know that by reading the headlines, where online video is under attack from the U.S. Attorney General (who apparently wants to make even thinking about online video a crime), the U.S. military (which apparently thinks the best way to fight for freedom is to supress it), and an ever-growing list of content creators who are quite sure that they’re somehow being cheated out of their copyright-protected dollars. But should viewing YouTube be a crime?

The knee-jerk reaction to sue first and ask questions later is perhaps a reflection of our lawyer-led society. But instead of spending millions in futile attempts to apply analog laws to digital distribution, why not instead seek technological ways to make content available easily and legally, along the iTunes model?

Given the deep pockets of its parent Google, YouTube and its post-first, takedown later structure is an easy target for lawyers with years of copyright infringement cases as precedent. But online video fans can take heart that some in Congress might be ready to fight notions like Gonzales’, starting perhaps with the YouTubin’ lawmaker himself, Rep. Ed Markey.

Since lawyers make money whether they win or lose, expect the legal battles over content, copyright and online video to eventually reach Congress or the highest courts — where it may take a VHS-like decision to keep us all from breaking the law every time we come across a Colbert clip. In the interim, keep fighting the good fight. And remember, online video is not a crime. Yet.