On Thursday, YouTube launched a new system for partners in the U.S. to make their videos available for download and purchase. While the download feature showed up as early as mid-January for some videos, little explanation was given by Google on how video creators could offer it on their own content.
With the new system partners who are admitted into the program can choose from one of five different Creative Commons licenses, and can set the pricing of a video to anything they want. Users who want to buy the video go through a special Google Checkout page that uses their existing Google account credentials.
There's already a selection of partners that have made their videos available for purchase. One, HouseholdHacker.com, is pricing its video downloads at 99 cents a pop. These videos are only available in the .MP4 format (which is provided DRM-free), although YouTube could add additional formats to match what Google Video once did with copies encoded and re-sized for portable devices like the iPod and PSP.
One serious concern YouTube, and content partners must have with this new system is that it's still quite easy to copy a video with a number of stream-ripping tools--many of which don't require any software whatsoever. If YouTube expects people to shell out for a digital copy of the clip it's going to have to do something to keep these types of tools from easily getting at the source file.
Update: Regarding third-party stream-ripping tools, Google spokeswoman Victoria Katsarou tells us that YouTube is hard at work "putting in place engineering solutions that prevent (such tools) from working." Also worth noting is that downloading a YouTube video without using the new download option is a violation of YouTube's terms of service, which says "you shall not copy or download any User Submission unless you see a 'download' or similar link displayed by YouTube on the YouTube Website for that User Submission."