The New York Times 15 January 2007 issue has a story by Laura M. Holson confirming YouTube's current copyright licensing negotiations with major film and television studios. It quotes an email by Chris Maxcy, vice president of business development for YouTube writing: "In fact, we’re now in discussions with several studios to create both content partnerships and revenue-sharing opportunities.”
YouTube operates on an advertising-supported business model. Videos are served free-of-charge and advertising appears on adjacent screen panels.
Some copyright catalogue or copyright library rights owners or controllers have already finalised negotiations with YouTube. They apparently include CBS and NBC, evidence for which one YouTube user has noted seems to result in YouTube having a bias for CBS on its most viewed listings. There are channels in YouTube from CBS, NBC and PBS. The story also reports that several major music companies, including Universal Music Group, now owned by Vivendi, have forged agreements with YouTube.
The quote in the opening paragraph of this post confirms that several copyright licences are currently under negotiation at YouTube. It's a question of deal making. Given the armoury of copyright and other law in place in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere, YouTube would be foolish to have an all out copyright lawsuit against it. It would lose, badly. Instead its options include those below.
As The New York Times story notes:
"Hoping to avoid some of the problems in the music industry that arose from illegal downloading of songs, all of the major studios — including NBC Universal, Warner Brothers Entertainment, which is owned by Time Warner, and the News Corporation’s 20th Century Fox, are in negotiations with YouTube seeking licensing agreements that would make their content legally available on the site.
In the meantime, they are also pressing YouTube to adopt filtering mechanisms more quickly to keep unlawful material from even showing up. And several media companies are in talks to create their own YouTube-like site, a move some in the industry suggest is a form of posturing to help push the licensing negotiations forward."
The story also briefly mentions the legal complexity for mashups, including the concerns of members of The Directors Guild of America. Mashups are visual media's equivalent to sampling in music. User-generated mashups appear frequently in YouTube. In Australia mashups and sampling are exposed to legal claims by copyright owners or copyright controllers under copyright law, moral rights law and trade practices law.
Further Reading: In Lightbulb we have previously written about YouTube's copyright issues in Person of the Year caught in copyright scandal and section 4 of Recent IP law for hackers, spammers, editors and rippers.