Tag: YouTube

Ethical Issues With YouTube Videos

Ethical Issues With YouTube Videos

Since Google bought YouTube in October of 2006, there has been controversy associated with the site. Just a few weeks after the purchase there were lawsuits against Google for copyright infringement. The idea that any individual can upload a video for the entire world to see is very powerful. A concept that one would only dream of even in the early 90s. With great power comes great responsibility, right? Not according to the Terms of Service. The responsibility lies solely on the individual, and not Google. And to make things more complicated, the individual can remain anonymous. The following is important information from the Google Terms of Service web site:

You shall be solely responsible for your own Content and the consequences of submitting and publishing your Content on the Service. You affirm, represent, and warrant that you own or have the necessary licenses, rights, consents, and permissions to publish Content you submit; and you license to YouTube all patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights in and to such Content for publication on the Service pursuant to these Terms of Service.
• For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your Content. However, by submitting Content to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and YouTube’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels. You also hereby grant each user of the Service a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service and under these Terms of Service. The above licenses granted by you in video Content you submit to the Service terminate within a commercially reasonable time after you remove or delete your videos from the Service. You understand and agree, however, that YouTube may retain, but not display, distribute, or perform, server copies of your videos that have been removed or deleted. The above licenses granted by you in user comments you submit are perpetual and irrevocable.

In short, Google claims no responsibility for the content uploaded to its site. While this may be acceptable in the United States where free speech reigns, other countries/cultures see YouTube as a threat. YouTube gives everybody an equal voice, which is exactly what some other cultures want to avoid. The following is a list of countries that have either completely banned YouTube, or shut the service temporarily.

• Afghanistan
• Armenia
• Bangladesh
• Brazil
• China
• Indonesia
• Iran
• Libya
• Morocco
• Pakistan
• Russia
• Syria
• Sudan
• Thailand
• Tunisia
• Turkey
• Turkmenistan
• United Arab Emirates
• United States

The topic of our group presentation is focusing on the issue with the Brazilian government. The government requested a video be taken off of YouTube, and even issued a warrant for arrest of a Google executive in charge of the Google Brazil office. A judge later released the Google exec and issued the following statement, “Google is not the intellectual author of the video, it did not post the file, and for that reason it cannot be punished for its propagation.” And was it right that that Brazilian government was trying to arrest the employee of Google? The employee was acting on Google’s behalf, so any judgment should go against the corporation and not the employee. This ruling is exactly what Google’s term of service aims to do, protect itself from legal threats that come from its users videos. Perhaps the Brazilian government knew they couldn’t legally arrest a Google employee, so maybe they were just looking for policy concessions. Or they could have just wanted to try and make headlines to try and get public support.
A lot of YouTube videos feature cute little kittens playing around, or groups of people doing some crazy dance. Those are the videos that made YouTube what it is. YouTube has also effectively killed music videos on viewed on cable TV, since almost all music videos can be found on YouTube now. Every minute 72 hours of video is uploaded to be viewed on YouTube.com. Trying to regulate what videos makes it to the site to be viewed in not practical, so it becomes an open platform to post any kind of video you like. With over 1 billion unique users, and over 1 trillion video views a year, that comes to an average of 140 views for every person on Earth. The power and reach of YouTube cannot be matched by any other sight on the Internet.

Not all videos are about kittens and college kids doing crazy dance moves, some are serious and have very strong political messages. These videos can be used as propaganda and act just like a TV commercial would, getting views from thousands or even millions of people. In the case with Brazil, the video was attacking a local mayoral candidate. When the government ordered Google to take down the video, Google issued a statement basically defending free speech, and to be able to freely express opinions on the Internet. Ethically looking at the situation, Relativism says that morality varies from culture to culture and from individual to individual. Culturally propaganda electoral video are not acceptable in Brazil. Google believes differently, and will not change the design of their technology to fit the culture in Brazil.

Google has a right to design their technology however they like and they have chosen to live with the consequences of that decision. The consequences include constant legal battles and controversy, along with being completely banned in some countries. In this case, Google must believe the benefits the site is providing, outweigh the negative controversy that goes with hosting anonymous videos.
Are these types of controversies harming Google’s image? According to the 2013 Harris Poll Reputation report, Google has the 4th best corporate reputation according to the general public. With a great public perception, Google has a lot of wiggle room with the design of its services. They afford to take stands in political matters, such as the one in Brazil, when there are so many people that think favorable about the company. If a company such as Goldman Sachs (which has one of the worst corporate reputations) were to make a free speech political stance such as Google did, it would not bear as much weight with public opinion.
Ethically, YouTube videos will always create a great deal of controversy, especially in cultures that are sensitive to free speech. With revenues that will likely surpass $4 billion dollars this year, there is no argument that Google’s business strategy with YouTube is working very well. Until their corporate image or revenues start to fall because of controversial videos, don’t expect their policies to change anytime soon.

References:
Holland, Steve. Brazil judge orders arrest of Google exec over YouTube video. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/brazil-judge-orders-arrest-google-exec-over-youtube-video-1B6097570

YouTube Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html

YouTube Terms of Service. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/t/terms

Brazil Detains Google Chief over Anti-Islam YouTube Clip. Retrieved from http://www.debbieschlussel.com/54747/brazil-fines-youtube-for-not-censoring-mohammed-video-fox-news-lies-about-the-story/

Goodwin, Danny. Google has 4th best corporate reputation. Feb. 13, 2013. Retrieved from http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2243735/Google-Has-4th-Best-Corporate-Reputation-Poll

Kafka, Peter. YouTube’s Gigantic Year is Already here. June, 21 2012. Retrieved from http://allthingsd.com/20120621/youtubes-gigantic-year-is-already-here-citi-says/