If you do a YouTube search of the artist, Lenny Kravitz, your search will undoubtedly return over 25 pages of videos in which Lenny is the only or main subject. That’s approximately 25 pages with 20 videos on a page–roughly 500 videos. These videos contain music videos, live concerts, interviews, and other footage spanning the duration of Lenny’s career–from the 1990’s to the present. The first few pages or so are “official” or posted on behalf of the artist himself, his label, or his representative(s). The other 20 pages are posted by mass YouTube users probably with no more of a connection to Lenny than me (a celebrity crush no doubt!) In fact, as I was performing this search, I stumbled across an eight minute post of a concert performance in Vienna that I took the time to enjoy before I began writing this blog! This brings up an interesting point worthy of some discussion later in this post.
Or Not to Bootleg…
However, before we get there, let’s compare Lenny’s presence on YouTube to the singer Prince’s presence. A YouTube search for Prince returns less than two full pages of videos in which Prince is the only or main subject. Moreover, the bulk of these postings are “official” or posted on behalf of the artist himself or his representative. A further examination of this limited selection reveals that none of the “unofficial” postings contain any of Prince’s original vocals. Clearly, Prince’s example stands in stark contrast to Lenny Kravitz’s where a fan can find extensive material from virtually every year of his career. These two artists’ responses to this issue represent polar opposites regarding music piracy (bootlegging) and YouTube.
Do Fans Have Rights via YouTube?
Practically every YouTube user has watched unauthorized posts of artists on YouTube. I mentioned that I watched an eight minute concert performance of Lenny Kravitz posted by a fan. This person appeared to be a regular YouTube user who was not acting on behalf of Lenny. Now, I certainly do not feel any culpability by watching this video; I feel because it is there, the suggestion is that artist in the league of Lenny Kravitz is aware of these types postings and simply does not mind. Should fans have a right to enjoy their favorite artists via YouTube? For some, it’s impossible and for others just impractical to see live performances other than on YouTube. Even if an artist is on tour, he or she can’t go to every city where his fans are, and I certainly could not have seen Lenny perform in Vienna on that date.
The implication to this question is “yes,” fans do have a right to view their favorite artists on YouTube. Even considering Prince’s presence on YouTube, his videos are there–it’s the unauthorized postings–bootlegging–that seem problematic for artists. While some may argue that “right” is a strong word in this case, the other side of the argument is that fans support their favorite artists, so to give them access via YouTube is an extension of this artist/fan dynamic. Furthermore, YouTube operates as a gateway for exposure to artists, so it’s not just the fans who benefit.
Still, the reality is that many fans who post unauthorized videos cash in on this activity. Users can profit off selling ads and/or receiving a certain number of views on a post (viral videos.) While exact amount to be made isn’t clear, the fact that someone is able to make any amount profit off another’s copyright is undoubtedly problematic.
How Do I Protect My Rights?
If you, as an artist, have a concern about your work being bootlegged on YouTube, there are measures you can take to protect your rights. The first and quickest action you can take is petition the site to have the unauthorized posting removed (a Takedown Notice). Click here for more information. YouTube is obligated to remove any unauthorized material at the copyright holder’s request. Hence, removal of the material should not be an issue. The tangible issue is learning how to know if your work is being distributed illegally. It can be difficult keep track of authorized postings, so many artists hire help in this area to assist them in monitoring their online presence. Whether you choose to go this route, monitor yourself, or take the approach similar to Lenny Kravitz’s and allow free sharing of your work, remember the extent of your presence on YouTube and online is and has always been under your control.
And if you missed it, check out last week’s post on bootlegging, The Associate’s Two Cents- Beware of Bootlegging (Part 1).
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