Disabling Embedding

Obviously I have various views about intellectual property policy that are genuinely at odds with the interests of incumbent record companies, so it doesn’t surprise me that those companies take positions that I think are wrong. But I’ve been puzzled for a while now by record labels’ habit of disabling the “embedding” function from music videos posted on YouTube. As a blogger, this is annoying for me because sometimes I want to embed videos. But for the labels, it seems like a losing proposition — basically preventing me from giving their artists free advertising.

Damian Kulash from Ok Go has an op-ed in today’s Times in which he lays out the record companies thinking — apparently they get a small slice of money from YouTube when people visit the main YouTube site and watch the video — but also offers his view that the policy is self-defeating, making it harder for his band to publicize itself and attract fans.

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I assume that in the longer run, you’re going to see more and more bands basically bypassing the whole record label concept. A band with a ton of fans is going to have plenty of ways it can make money — concerts, t-shirts, posters, licensing of its songs, etc. Being famous and popular is inherently lucrative and it’s appealing in other ways as well. The idea of middlemen is that they get a cut of your earnings but in exchange do a lot to help you become famous and popular. If middlemen insist on business models that make it harder to become famous and popular, then they’re not providing much value.