Justin.TV Testimony Revisits Copyright Issues for Live Video Services

Justin.Tv Shut Down everything-pr

Live-streaming video services have seen their ups and downs. But a hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee is putting Justin.TV in the hot seat. The live-streaming video service provider is testifying at the hearing this week, hoping to prove that it is well within the legal rights regarding copyrighted content that gets included in any live-stream video feeds. Justin.TV is looking to be protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to prevent it from prosecution regarding the content its users upload.

The issue here is of course the use of copyrighted content. Under the DMCA certain content is protected for use by online publications, even if it’s copyrighted. Stipulations include the length of a video clip used, among other things. For Justin.TV and other live-streaming video services, the issues surrounding the use of copyrighted content can be vastly different from what’s already been experienced by other online video hubs such as YouTube.

The returning popularity of live-streaming video services means that the legal issues surrounding their use must be re-addressed, especially now that other standards have been issued for other forms of online video-sharing. YouTube faced quite a legal battle with major broadcasting companies wanting copyrighted content taken down, and that goes for direct copyright infringement as well as indirect copyright infringement such as lipsyncing a copyrighted song.

One way in which user-generated content sites have avoided severe legal implications is due to the fact their content comes from other users instead of from the company itself. This places the company and its services in the unique position of a service provider–not a content provider.

Additionally, the use of technology that recognizes and flags copyrighted content has offered an immediate solution to issues surrounding the uploading of copyrighted content, presenting a series of loopholes for service providers and users alike to take advantage of.

The hearing this week deals specifically with the live broadcasting of sports events, with live-streaming video services like Justin.TV facing the wrath of major broadcasters all over again. What Justin.TV says is unavoidable, the broadcasters see as potential loss of revenue.

Re-addressing the issue of copyright infringement in an era where live-streaming video services are beginning to regain traction is what’s really unavoidable here. With more devices equipped for live-streaming, additional sharing mechanisms and improved networks, live-streaming video will continue to permeate several aspects of our media-sharing activity. That means individuals are quite likely to include copyrighted content at times. Who owns the content and who makes money off that content is another story all together.

Revenue-sharing has been extended as a catch-all solution, with deals between video service providers and broadcasters trickling down to individual users for dealing with advertising opportunities and incentives for all parties involved. That hasn’t actually come to fruition yet, at least not in a manner viable to be implemented on a large scale. We’re left with a sticky situation that has few ways out and asks for a great number of compromises no matter which way you slice it.

Others, such as Qik and Kyte, may end up dealing with similar issues as they become useful tools for individuals to live-broadcast multimedia content. This all signifies the changing ways in which individuals interact with and control the media that is being created and consumed across the social web. It’s up to content owners to figure out the best way in which to live with and utilize these advances and developments.

UPDATE: Justin.Tv has officially shut down.


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  2. Rob says

    It is a blurry line between service provider and content creator. The “ask forgiveness, not permission” plea is at the heart of the much of these debates; either at the dinner table or in court.

    The simple fact is that your average lip-synching punter is generating content for NO FINANCIAL GAIN. YouTube, or any other commercial SERVICE PROVIDER is making money (potentially…) by mounting advertising at on the pages that the free content has been mounted at. The more hits, potentially the more revenue for the service and the advertiser. Heck, it’s been the basis of the “trad-media” old dinosaurs of paper, radio and TV with the supposed hook of “we can tell you who clicked”.

    So service providers should not be off the hook. Also does a kid with a phone cam taking video at a sports game with rights sold to ESPN/Fox/whoever breach copyright when he sends an MMS to grandma showing her he is at the game? Or do we need to go a step further down where the rookie commentor takes his device to the game trains a camera on the action, puts his spin on the commentary and casts it live or on-demand to the world. Is that person doing it for commercial gain or just as a hobby?

    As a provider of streaming services continuously for what seems a eon (since 2001…) we discuss these issues regularly. Has it made a difference to our business model? Not really. Ultimately, crap content does not get hits. Good content should be encouraged. Can you pay people for good content? Will those people become suspicious of the motives of the “honest aggregator”?

    More questions, more questions. However, as global corporates and uneducated legislators attempt to pigeon-hole the process, it will only encourage what they would consider subversive and illegal use of content.

    A better way will emerge that suits a majority (it has worked for Google for a few years so far). But there will always be sneaks and thieves (on both sides of the corporate fence…) whose only motive is to screw with the system. It’s human nature. Look no further than the waste of time, money and carbon in Copenhagen at the moment.

    Rob in Australia

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