In a Digital Music News article written on Friday June 22nd by Paul, the founder of Youtube-mp3.org, Philip Matesanz, argues in his guest posting that music lovers and fans, especially in Germany, should be allowed to download YouTube videos. From a fair use perspective, this is without a doubt legal but from Google’s point of view, Youtube-mp3.org has no right to allow such a practice regardless of its location. Will Google win the battle against the German Government and Media over acquisition of news and media content from the websites of German publishing companies? That is a political battle in my opinion that does not impact the decision made by Google to stop Youtube-mp3.org from using YouTube’s platform to offer its services.
YouTube is owned by Google and if the artists themselves whose product is being disputed do not make a statement for Google to allow such downloads, the Youtube-mp3.org in my opinion is fighting a lost battle because the millions of user own no rights of the music video. In my previous thought piece I discussed the deal between UMG and YouTube and Vevo where artists will be paid for their music videos. This in a way makes the argument for Youtube-mp3.org to be tougher because apparently independent artists are progressively requesting a piece of the revenue from the consumption of their music videos. A revenue source that Youtube-mp3.org is not advancing at the moment. Even if Youtube-mp3.org proposes a revenue share on the videos downloaded from YouTube, Google might not accept the proposal because it will be make the revenue model unsustainable. YouTube will no longer be an exclusive location for music videos. Besides, I do not see why Google will want to share its ad revenue with a third party from a business found on Google’s platform.
On the other hand, Philip Matesanz of Youtube-mp3.org has a point when he says Google does not care about the millions of users using their service. All these users are probably engaging on YouTube or Vevo anyway if they are downloading music from YouTube. Google does not stand a chance of losing these users if Youtube-mp3.org were to go away. If they really love music, they will be back on YouTube for those videos they want.
A serious point that was raised was that this could be another Napster showdown. It is not beneficial for the music industry to take the back seat and let technology dictate its future. Thirteen years ago, this cost the music industry not only millions in illegal downloads but a destabilized base in terms of acceptable format for music distribution. With Napster, it was audio downloads and now with Youtube-mp3.org, we have music video downloads. In order to benefit from this digital transformation, it might be beneficial for record labels to get together with the major online sources of digital and agree on a unique format for legal digital consumption. Just as much as the MPAA controls the format of digital distribution in the film industry, the record label could work on a similar alliance for profitability.
From my observations, the problem is not really the millions of users downloading the videos but how much ends up in the artist’s bank account, if they have any.
By Gerard Ngwang