Part of the innovation of viral video websites like YouTube and LiveVideo - indeed, the feature that makes them viral - is the ability to embed the videos into other websites with a simple bit of html or java code. That's how I've included my YouTube videos here, and elsewhere on my web.
Using that same bit of code, other bloggers have been able to include my videos when they want to. When that happens I'm always pleased and honored. That's also how I've occasionally included other people's videos on this and my other blogs.
But when does embedding go too far and become an invasion or a copyright violation?
I was recently alerted (thanks to the Frozen Ghost!) to two websites that have turned embedding into a business model: flixya.com and sumo.tv (I'm not linking them, because I'm not sure I want to give them any more business). Users at these video sites don't create content, they simply link to it. And, they make money off of the linking.
YouTube and LiveVideo don't share their revenue with the content creators. I make nothing off the videos I create. It's a hobby, and that's fine with me. These other sites, with no much lower overhead (they're not actually hosting the videos, so it's a much cheaper site to run) split the ad revenue with their members. But do those members (or even the sites) deserve to make money off of my content?
Yes, my content. Even though I'd never heard of these sites (and others like them) until a couple of days ago, many of my videos are there - through the magic of embedding - on other users' accounts. Now, they're not making much money off it. I doubt it's more than a couple of bucks. But still, is it right?
I wrote to each company and asked that my content be removed. Sumo.tv responded that I was free to turn off embedding in my YouTube account settings, but that they would not remove the links from their site. Flixya.com responded that they would be happy to remove my videos if I supply them with a list of the URLs (in the works).
Obviously, I like the response from Flixya.com better - so much so that once the fraudulent copies of my videos are removed, I may set up an account their and post them under my own name and see just how much (or little) money is to be made there.
But, what to do about Sumo.tv? In a way, I do see their point about my being in control of embedding at the source host site. But I don't want to turn that feature off because I use it.
I also, as I pointed out, use the embed to post other people's videos here and at my Highway 17 Music guitar blog. But, when I do it, I always try to credit the video author. What I do (in my mind) is put the video into the editorial context of the blog. I don't believe I'm doing anything fraudulent or trying to rip off other people's creativity.
Am I a hypocrite, or is there really a difference between what I do and what these new embedded video sites do? In my mind there is a difference, but I'd really like to hear some more opinions on this.