YouTube If You Want To

This week, not one but two body-blows were dealt to the UK's proud tradition of nurturing a creative and omnipresent seam that stretches from Shakespeare to Adele.

The Iron Lady once famously proclaimed, "You turn if you want to - The Lady's not for turning !" and yet that's precisely what this successor government is doing when it comes to protecting Britain's creative industries. This week, not one but two body-blows were dealt to the UK's proud tradition of nurturing a creative and omnipresent seam that stretches from Shakespeare to Adele.

First, the coalition - in these hard-up times and following the commissioning of a no doubt multi-million Pound report by Ofcom - has decided, in its wisdom, to drop the implementation of the 'site-blocking' provisions of the Digital Economy Act, which would have led to the most blatant and pernicious piracy sites being filtered from browsers in the same way as child porn sites are. Secondly, yet another government report recommended that it no longer be necessary to seek a composer's or lyricist's permission to create a parody version of their song and lyrics and, while the 'Hargreaves Review' apparently had innocent, fan versions of famous songs posted on YouTube in mind, the recommendation itself is naive and open to wholesale abuse. More alarmingly, it was believed that this measure would help the economy ... .. if barrel-scraping of this magnitude is what we're depending upon, then - to coin another 80s proclamation - will the last person to leave the country please turn-out the lights ?!

Talking of YouTube, I sense another 'Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle' in our midst ... .. don't get me wrong, YouTube is a fantastic resource and one that is probably my primary form of entertainment when chained to a computer 20 hours-a-day in a professional capacity ... .. clips of everything from John Lennon in his replete, post Beatles years, to snippets of favourite movies like the 'Jesus' scenes in The Big Lebowski, through to watching Top Gear driving The Queen's imperious Rover 3.5 Litre saloon ... .. no, the problem isn't what's on YouTube, it's simply the fact that why should this amazing box-of-tricks be free ?? Free at the point-of-consumption for the viewing public, yes, but free from the standpoint of building a multi-billion Dollar business on the backs of other people's copyrights - no. For now - and as a way of avoiding having to make 'airplay' payments to rights owners - YouTube are foistering more-and-more advertisements upon their viewers and, in the process, ruining what made YouTube so great in the first place. As I hope to illustrate, there is an historical inevitability to the fact that, eventually, YouTube and their paymasters at Google shall be compelled to actually pay rights owners, such as movie studios and record labels, for proper airplay for the use of their copyright material - as opposed to infinitesimally small revenues from adverts - but, for now, it's left to agencies such as Web Sheriff to remove unremunerated clips en masse, which is unfortunate for the consumer and shouldn't be necessary.

With the advent of commercial radio back in the 1920s - and with echoes of today - a new industry was born that made huge revenues (through advertising) whilst offering music for free to its consumers. It didn't take long, however, for composers' societies to strike an airplay deal with the fledgling radio business, so that their members were paid for the public performance / broadcast of their copyright songs and, today and in most countries, the owners of recordings and songs are paid for their commercial broadcast. With almost mirror precision, the same roles were being played-out in the 1980s when MTV was launched ... .. at first, record companies couldn't throw enough material at this new and shiny medium - "Video Killed The Radio Star" ?! - but, once it became apparent that MTV were building a multi-million Dollar enterprise off their free music, a new reality set-in and, before long, MTV were themselves paying for airplay. Fast forward to the 21st Century and the internet age and here-we-are all over again, with rights owners slowly waking-up to the fact that another Frankenstein has been created from their body parts.

So, YouTube If You Want To and, meanwhile, where's that episode of The New Avengers that I was looking for ?? ... .. .


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