Video deals are background music to Google YouTube deal

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Video deals are background music to Google YouTube deal

Copyright issue is the 'elephant in the room' behind the YouTube takeover.

In the hours leading up to yesterday's announcement that Google has bought video website YouTube for US$1.65 billion, the two protagonists had announced a spate of deals with music industry giants that suggest they are trying to tackle questions over copyright. 

Sony BMG and Warner Music Group said they had inked new music video deals with Google, emphasising how this "legitimate distribution" casts a bad light on websites that do not respect artists' copyrights. 

YouTube has long been at the centre of copyright infringement concerns in the entertainment industry.

Critics say it is jam-packed with videos, TV clips and film clips that seriously undermine studio and artists' rights, and could open Google to major class-action lawsuits once the takeover of YouTube is complete.

But YouTube has been signing pacts with the music industry. A Warner deal was announced two weeks ago, and yesterday YouTube added Sony BMG, Universal and CBS to its roster of deals.

Google will use advertising revenues to reimburse Sony BMG and Warner Music for making their new music video catalogues freely available on Google Video. 

"We can meet online user demand, provide advertisers [with] a new way to communicate with their customers and give content holders a way to monetise their content while respecting important copyrights," said David Eun, Google's vice president of content partnerships.

Unlike several major book publishers, which are fighting a rearguard action against Google's book digitisation project on the ground that it infringes their copyrights, Google is being fêted by its new music industry partners as a copyright saviour".

"Our partnership with Google is rooted in the pioneering approach we've used to offer fans more music, while benefiting artists and protecting copyrights," said Alex Zubillaga, executive vice president for digital strategy and business development at Warner Music Group.

A merged YouTube and Google Video will dominate this fast-expanding market. Data for August from web measurement firm Hitwise showed YouTube leading the market in the US with 45.46 percent, with MySpace Videos and Google Video on 22.99 per cent and 10.25 percent respectively. Yahoo Video and MSN Video had around six percent each. 

Selected music videos from the Google deals will also be available for purchase as downloads on Google Video for US$1.99, and through Google's AdSense partner sites.
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