Musicians Versus YouTube, and Maybe the Public

 

Paul McCartney is ganging up with U2, Taylor Swift and other two hundred big names in music to take action against YouTube. As The Economist reports in its Espresso edition, they will place advertisements against Google’s video platform in the media. Many of us listen to music for free on YouTube, yet the video service is a very small source of revenue, just $634 million, or four percent of the industry’s global total. The musicians’ campaign is aimed at the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S., which protects websites from liability over unlicensed content uploaded by users as long as the sites comply with takedown requests. They complain that the service erodes sales from streaming services such as Apple’s iTunes online store. The outcome of this clash of the titans is unpredictable. It is, however, yet another sign of a challenge brought about by the Internet: making people to pay for media services after they got used to receiving them for free. It is the same story with news. Verb posits this: people are having trouble paying for a virtual good. They still have no qualms about paying for a printed newspaper or a CD. Yet to some people, paying for an online item may feel like buying smoke.

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