Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Strangeness of YouTube

A few weeks ago I (poorly) digitized a couple of rare Canadian music videos, and then put them on YouTube. Strangely, the one that generated buzz was Belinda Metz's "What About Me."

Metz herself (AKA "mamamelody") showed up in the comments and seemed confused about the situation; who would EVER put her video online? WHY would they do such a thing? To make the situation stranger, her daughter showed up a little bit later ("dancer88skye"), as did a man who apparently appeared in the video ("cathode42").

While it's often difficult to judge a person's attitude in a comment's section, one of Metz's points was that posting the video was flattering but "not nice." And I don't think she just meant my making fun of her outrageous shoulder pads.

There's no question that posting a person's music video online is a violation of copyright. As Metz said later, she gets no residuals from such a thing. Legally her viewpoint is cut-and-dried.

But then we enter the strange world of online promotion. While Belinda Metz has become an established actress, it would seem that her mid-80s music career is...well, finished. That's not saying she can't resurrect it, but few people in the world actually know she exist, I don't believe her video is in rotation even on retro-music shows (hence its unavailability on YouTube), and even her CD is long out of print.

In short, I would think that posting a video in this situation serves only two purposes: to potentially promote the artist, and then to rally fans. It does not TAKE AWAY residuals (since there is no other way for people to SEE the video) or discourage legitimate sales of a DVD release (since no DVD exists).

Of course I would always bow to artists (and their lawyers), and I understand their antsiness about online reproduction. Fortunately Metz has given the posting her blessing, so you can now enjoy a wonderful song and an otherwise forgotten video.

But this makes me wonder: when I put other obscure Canadian artists online, will they think it's a positive thing, or will they sic their lawyers on me?

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