Why isn't the RIAA suing Youtube and other video sharing sites?

A search for “music video” on Google videos produces 66,000 hits. The same search on Youtube produces almost 200,000. Every major site that has allowed free user-choosable streaming or downloading of commercial music has had to deal with the lawyers, but somehow, if you embed the music into a flash file and add some moving pictures, you’re in the clear.

I don’t get it. There must be some reason that the RIAA’s not taking these guys to the cleaners, but I can’t figure it out.

Please, if you want to debate the morality or legality of downloading copyrighted material without approval from the copyright owner (except as might specifically apply to the difference between audio only and audio plus video), I think there’s already a thread over in GD. I’d like this one to be about trying to figure out the legal strategy of the RIAA, and the future of these video sharing sites.

Music videos are ads for record albums. That’s why you’ve never paid to see one.

Warner gets it.

Universal doesn’t.

Clear as mud.

From the AP article:

I was about to say, “I was wrong?”. Apparently not - Universal’s just being especially stupid.

Because of a safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act:

In other words, YouTube isn’t the one posting the copyrighted materials, and if they remove such materials when notified by the copyright holder, they are not liable.

If that is indeed the case, what is the difference between that and what Napster was doing? Napster itself didn’t even host the files. They just provided a way to look them up on other people’s computers. YouTube and the others actually provide the hosting of the videos. It seems to me like it’s a double standard.

Music videos are promotional, certainly, but they’re also a product in and of themselves. Music videos are sold on DVD, usually along with a live concert. It’s not uncommon for a CD to have a music video on it. Collections of music videos are sold. iTunes sells music videos. And channels that play music videos run advertisements, just like channels that run other shows sold for a profit. Lots of people have paid to see them, one way or another.

Because Napster involved copying of files; YouTube does allow others to copy anything.

There were lots of “internet radio stations” that got shut down that didn’t allow copying, just streaming.

And, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s trivial to find a program that will copy stuff off of Youtube.

Internet radio stations were shut down because radio stations must pay a license fee to broadcast music. I think this is based on potential audience, but not 100% sure. If it is, imagine, prior to the current agreement, how much an internet radio station catering to a niche 100 strong would have to pay in licensing fees. Most Internet Radio Stations could not afford the cost of broadcasting.

Napster did not host material, and did not block the sharing of copyrighted material when notified (not sure if they could). YouTube hosts material and thus, when the copyright holder notifies them, can remove access to the material. You can post Monday Night Football on YouTube, but when the NFL says take it down, YouTube will, no questions asked.

There’s an extension for Firefox that theoretically allows saving of YouTube videos. I haven’t gotten it to work.