Warner warms up to YouTube with media sharing agreement

New York (NY) - Warner Music Group (WMG) and YouTube today announced a joint partnership in which Warner will distribute its copyrighted content through the increasingly popular video sharing site. Warner is the first company to announce support for YouTube's new "content identification and royalty reporting" system, which YouTube says will be generally available by the end of the year.

Under the agreement, WMG will post content, including music videos, artist interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and "other special content", on YouTube. Additionally, in the first arrangement of its kind, according to YouTube, it can grant grants permission to other YouTube users to use any music from the WMG portfolio within their own videos. Until YouTube releases its content identification and royalty reporting system, it remains unclear, if all video content will remain free to YouTube users. According to a press release, "YouTube and WMG will share revenue from advertising on both WMG music videos and user uploaded videos that incorporate audio and audiovisual works from WMG's catalog."

WMG will provide access to the content of its record labels, including Atlantic, Warner Bros., Asylum, Bad Boy, Cordless, East West, Nonesuch, Reprise, and Rhino.

Edgar Bronfman, Jr., WMG's CEO, said that he realizes the reach of a viewer-based platform like YouTube. "Technology is changing entertainment, and Warner Music is embracing that innovation," he said.

"Consumer-empowering destinations like YouTube have created a two-way dialogue that will transform entertainment and media forever. As user-generated content becomes more prevalent, this kind of partnership will allow music fans to celebrate the music of their favorite artists, enable artists to reach consumers in new ways, and ensure that copyright holders and artists are fairly compensated."

Copyright issues have led to first clashed between YouTube and the copyright holders. Late last week, speculation arose that Universal Music Group is about to sue YouTube for creating a platform that enables and potentially promotes copyright infringement. Other than Napster in 2001, however, YouTube appears to avoid legal proceedings against the movie and music industry and is preparing a system that will identify whether or not a posted video is copyrighted, as well as to report royalties for these videos.

NBC also had complaints with YouTube earlier this year, with a wealth of clips from Saturday Night Live, Jay Leno, The Today Show, and other NBC shows showing up online from various users. After YouTube removed all the illegally posted content, in June, NBC announced a partnership with the Web site: NBC now uses YouTube to post content, such as show promos, on its own.

Several television networks appear to have just turned a blind eye to YouTube. However, a handful of TV channels have fully embraced YouTube's "viral video" potentiality, using the video sharing technology to their advantage. For example, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, host of "The Colbert Report", a couple months ago challenged viewers to create their own videos, using a clip of him in front of a green screen with a light saber, and post them on YouTube. Some of the videos made it on YouTube's list of the most viewed videos.

Just to be safe from litigation with a Napster outcome, YouTube said that its new software architecture, which will help to track down copyrighted videos, will be completed by the end of the year. Through audio and video identification, it is expected that it will be able to determine instantly whether there is a potential copyright infringement in a newly posted video. It will also give the copyright holders the "opportunity to authorize and monetize the use of their works within the user-generated content on the site."

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