The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), an organisation that tracks, surveys and protects the usage of music rights recently is keeping an eye on Google Video and especially YouTube.
Google Video was a completely legal fellow once, but with the increase of average users posting videos on this service, Google got into the same legal problems YouTube suffered right from its inception in February 2005.
Most users who upload a video to one of these services aren't aware of the legal side of things involved with a video clip. Here at Clipland we had numerous struggles with right owners or content distributors/users, who just weren't aware of these things. After all, putting video content online (and thus exhibiting it) is a hard and serious business that has to be well organized. There are multiple layers of rights underlaying each artistic work or video clip.
If you record yourself on video lip-synching a tune from the radio and upload it to YouTube, it is a sure bet that you either broke or touched a whole set of rights. At first there are personal rights involved as you are seen on the video. And, as you aren't a person of the public (in 98%), there are regulations to protect your identity and exhibition online. Then there is the aspect of the music in the background, which you were not allowed to re-record or re-distribute - and especially not via online channels! You might argue that this is not a re-recording but an artistic re-arrangement of the whole underlaying material - but this is not an opinion that many will share - first not the recording industry.
The last thing to keep in mind is the policy of the online-service, which may prohibit the upload of uncleared content at all (so you are in trouble) or which claims immediate ownership of YOUR content after it ended up on their server (again: trouble). See an interesting discussion of this YouTube-policy on YouTube's new policy says: we own your content.
And now the RIAA steps in (meaning trouble for YouTube). Check out this article which has the details.
The RIAA correctly states that YouTube has no license to distribute video content protected by various laws. And checking on this you might notice that you can get LOTS of altered and unaltered music recordings through YouTube. You can get these lip-synching, dancing, home-made-anime-music-videos etc. videos. And try a search on a random new music video on Google and the first match will be on YouTube - an illegally ripped-from-TV recording posted by someone to YouTube.
We will see how the parties resolve this. YouTube should have enough cash to pay the RIAA. Which is exactly what a first agreement seems to propose. YouTube should pay a flat-fee to cover all breaches of law committed by users on YouTube's pages. Maybe this is why they begin to change their policy lately. We will see what is next.
further reading: Jetzt stehen Musikvideos bei YouTube unter Beschuss - german article covering the issue and also: Das YouTube Problem from calacanis
related article here at Clipland Blog: Viral Video profiteurs cash-in