Paying YouTube content creators easier said than done

CEO Hurley said the site will compensate video creators, but copyright issues and YouTube's huge inventory complicate the plan.

Paying YouTube content creators easier said than doneUnlike many who post widely watched content on YouTube, Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe were angered by their video's popularity on the site.

Fans had posted the clip, "The Diet Coke & Mentos Experiment," at YouTube without permission. Voltz and Grobe were flattered, but the "Mentos" video earned $30,000 at, another video-sharing site that pays content creators, and the pair believed they could have doubled that total had the clip not been made available for free on YouTube.

In the future, a budding video auteur trying to turn a buck may not have to worry about YouTube siphoning traffic. YouTube Chief Executive Chad Hurley told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last weekend that the video-sharing site plans to compensate video creators.

Hurley stopped short of saying how exactly YouTube plans to do this, but industry experts and competitors who are already paying for their content say the devil will be in the details for such a large site, which sees 30 million visitors per month.

The No. 1 question industry insiders are asking is whether someone can profit from posting clips from episodes of Friends or Lost or other material that doesn't belong to them. Clearly, YouTube, which tells users they don't want copyright-protected material illegally posted on the site, doesn't want to end up paying people for posting what someone else owns. But with such a big audience, experts say, YouTube will need to install a system that accurately tracks and handles payments to a massive list of posters. The company says that more than 60,000 clips are uploaded to the site each day.

"I'm sure they are working on a plan but it's certainly not a trivial undertaking," said Allyson Campa, vice president of marketing for Metacafe, which shares advertising revenue with video creators and is among the top 10 most-trafficked video-sharing sites. "The tricky thing is the rights issues."

Will "audio fingerprinting" work?
Copyright issues have plagued YouTube almost since the company officially launched in December 2005. YouTube allows anyone to post anything at any time. Only after a video is flagged by the community and YouTube employees have had a chance to review whether a clip is pornographic or unduly violent or violates a copyright will the company yank a video. YouTube doesn't do any prescreening.

That's a crucial difference between YouTube and most of the sites that already share revenue, said Oliver Luckett, one of Revver's cofounders. Metacafe and Revver screen clips before they go online so they aren't paying for pirated material. The screening process should guarantee that ads will appear alongside clips that are appropriate to an advertiser's message.

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