http://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_stewart_how_youtube…

Copyright is an area of immense interest for me: I cannot say exactly why, but I think it is to do with the interplay of creativity, reward and culture. I mostly think of copyright as being a battle between the content creators and content users, with each trying to find the best deal for themselves. Lawmakers, swayed by one side or the other, pass legislation to maintain a balance of some kind (currently far too much in favour of the creators). And technology provides a landscape which is constantly changing, requiring all players to exert effort to maintain equilibrium for themselves and the system as a whole. At the core of copyright is the issue of our culture, and specifically how we create, transmit and enjoy its artifacts (such as music, video and books).

Of late, we have seen many attempts by content creators (recording artists, move directors) and their representatives (MPAA, RIAA) to block technological developments that they see as harmful to their interests. This often leads to a strong perceived delineation between bad/evil/greedy creators and poor/choiceless consumers. In many instances this delineation seems to be fair and accurate, for example when Paramount attempted to claim copyright over someone’s footage of the public filming of movie.

However, every so often we catch a glimpse of developments that are distinctly more subtle in their effort to create benefit for all. My standard examples of these instances are Creative Commons and the Open Source movement. Having watched this fascinating video, I think I might now have a third example. The video deals with YouTube’s automated efforts to allow content creators to have control over their content in such a way that uses economic incentives to encourage them to permit remix and reuse. This softly-softly approach seems to be a great way to get big corporations interested in the power of participatory culture, whilst allowing them to maintain ownership over their content.

From an information technology perspective, the video provides great insights into the way that YouTube uses technology to process, analise and make decisions upon huge numbers of videos. It also illustrates many interesting points regarding information processes, and shows that systems are not just composed of technology, but also consist of people, policies and data. I think many students will definitely be interested to see what happens behind the scenes on the world’s most popular video sharing platform.

I am certainly interested to learn more about YouTube’s efforts in this area, and would love to see this system fulfill its potential to empower individuals to create culture rather than simply consume it. As to whether or not it will, who knows, but given Google’s long history of pushing the envelope when it comes to copyright, it just might.