It’s Mine: Getting Paid for YouTube Videos

December 14, 2011, By George Lang

OK, pay attention, because this gets complicated. YouTube becomes famous because any moron can put a stupid video on there; and, if the video goes viral, he/she stands to make lots of bucks from advertisers who latch on to it. Google sees the value and buys YouTube, making it even more financially fertile because of its search engine expertise.

Now, the recording industry gets pissed because these YouTubers are putting copyrighted music on their cute little puppy videos and they want their slice of the puppy-chow-pie. So, last week, in an effort to “suck up” to the people who represent the songwriters, Google buys a company called RightsFlow (New York Times). 

RightsFlow describes its service as follows:

“The RightsFlow team are experts in mechanical licensing and royalty accounting.  By using RightsFlow’s services you can:

  • Save time and money
  • Reduce exposure to litigation and liability
  • Avoid frustrating data issues
  • Avoid late fees” (RightsFlow)


Despite the purchase of RightsFlow, Google has a complex task ahead of it. Traditionally, recording artists and songwriters have looked to organizations such as ASCAP and BMI for representation and royalty distribution. With the advent of willy-nilly Internet sharing applications stemming back to the old Napster-like sites, getting paid for what is “rightfully yours” has become extremely complicated.

YouTube activity quadruples this complexity to the point where officialdom (last syllable pronounced –dumb) has got to be wondering if song ownership is even possible any more. And while Google’s move to RightsFlow management of its royalty distribution organization seems to be a step in the right direction, enforcing the collection of royalties has been effectively compromised since the invention of the dual-cassette tape deck.

As a songwriter and copyright holder myself, you would think I would side with the artists and their representatives on this topic. To be honest, I tend to go in the other direction. Instead, I side with popular recording artist and songwriter John Mayer who, during live performances in the heyday of the early Napster era, used to encourage fans to go ahead and download his songs!

"They're All Mine!"

Nowadays, ownership of many things has been called into question; for instance, Occupy Wall Street protesters have literally taken over million dollar homes which have been reclaimed by big banks when their owners could no longer pay the mortgage (Said). I tend to agree with the “dumb guys,” it is often becoming impossible to get paid for the things we believe are rightfully ours.

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