'YouTube Is UsTube': Creators Step in to Defend YouTube

Plenty of folks, from copyright lawyers to Internet entrepreneurs to
investment bankers, have been watching the long-running legal battle
between Viacom and Google/YouTube carefully, well aware that a decision
in the case could have a profound effect on the future of the Internet.
But most YouTube users probably haven't given it the same attention.
They should, and in an amicus
filed in support of YouTube last week, a group of YouTube
video creators explains why.

Calling themselves "The Sideshow Coalition" (because Viacom has
called their interests a "sideshow"), these creators tell their own
personal stories of how YouTube has helped them find a broader audience
than they had ever imagined they could reach, with all kinds of
unexpected effects. A few examples from the brief:

  • Barnett Zitron, who created "Why Tuesday," a political video blog
    focused increasing voter turnout that has helped register over half a
    million college students to vote.
  • Mehdi Saharkhiz, who created a YouTube channel to spread awareness
    about government human rights abuses in Iran and frequently posts videos
    from contacts in Iran who record the videos on their cell phones.
  • Phillip de Vellis, who created and uploaded to YouTube a video
    supporting President Obama's candidacy, hoping it would be viewed by a
    few thousand people. "Instead, millions viewed it and the San Francisco
    Chronicle described it as 'a watershed moment in 21st century media and
    political advertising.'"
  • Arin Crumley, who could not get conventional financing for a film he
    wanted to make, and decided instead to self-produce it and post it to
    YouTube. The first full length movie ever uploaded to the site, it was
    viewed more than a million times, and then the Independent Film Channel
    picked it up.
  • Dane Boedigheimer, who wanted to be a filmmaker since he was 12
    years old and would spend hours each day with his parents' 8mm camera.
    "In the conventional media, it would have taken years before he might
    even have a chance to direct films. However, with YouTube, Boedigheimer
    was able to create a series called 'Really Annoying Orange' whose
    episodes have been viewed 130 million times."

These creators praise YouTube for removing the gatekeeper between
them and their audiences. "We can now be our own television and cable
stations and our own record labels and record stores. We suspect that
the threat that truly concerns Plaintiffs is not copyright infringement
but just competition."

Unlike most of the parties and amici who have filed in this case (including EFF),
these friends of the court don't focus on the legal doctrines at stake
in this case. Instead, they remind us why these legal issues matter,
i.e., what's really at stake in a case that tries to hold intermediaries
liable for what users post online:

It is pretty clear that on a scale of incentives to censor, the
billion dollars that Plaintiffs seek in this lawsuit rates pretty high.
If YouTube is made responsible for everything that we say, then
naturally YouTube will want to exercise control over what we say. No
online service would risk enabling the universe of users to speak in
their own words if it faced liability for anything that anyone said.

Therefore, we ask that as the Court decides this case, it consider
not just the interests of those who appear in the caption, but also our
interests as creative professionals and the interests of the hundreds of
millions of people who have viewed our work.

We are not a sideshow. We are what YouTube is all about and what
this lawsuit should be about.

Just so.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.