When the news first broke that Google was purchasing Youtube, I prophesized the downfall of Youtube’s free-content system. Of course, even I didn’t take me entirely seriously at the time. The unfortunate thing is that it appears I was right. Google’s gotten its corporate claws into Youtube, which has now degenerated into a morass of messages like this one:
It is what I alwyas feared: any little swath of e-democracy out there will eventually be sought out by a massive multibillion-dollar corporation and pounded into submission until it is perfectly corporation-friendly. That is, until it’s devoid of any mildly interesting content.
Now, I know this is going to sound exactly like a great deal of contemporary Internet rhetoric, but in this case, I think it happens to be true. Now, let me be precise here: I’m not saying that Google is crushing e-democracy intentionally, but merely as a horrifying, twisted side-effect of their quest for dollars. Here’s how it works:
Google: Gee, Youtube is getting a lot of hits. We could make a great deal of money from that. Hey, Youtube, would you like to be bought?
Youtube: Wow, money! Sure thing, Mister Google!
Google: Look at all the money we’re making off our new purchase! We’re happy.
The ALMIGHTY ©: Wait just a minute! Some of these videos belong to ME! Lawsuit! Lawsuit!
Google: Oh no, not a lawsuit! Quick, strip Youtube of its content!
Youtube: **Pitiful coughing and sputtering, prior to death**
The same thing happened to Napster. And just wait, before long, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Compaq, Apple, and other computer manufacturers will be sneaking phrases like this into their End-User License Agreements:
The person who purchases and uses this machine (henceforth referred to as “the user”), by consenting to this license agreement, hereby grants all intellectual property rights for works created with or in conjunction with this machine to <COMPANY NAME> corporation.
And in that same vein, I’ve always been terrified of those EULAs that pop up when you’re installing software. After all, what is at the bottom of that boilerplate bullet list?
The user agrees to grant the provider his or her immortal soul.
As usual, just food for thought.