The Redlasso problem

 

American news networks NBC and Fox joined forces on 23 July to file suit against the video sharing site Redlasso,  citing copyright infringement. A few days later, the site shut down their video popular service, leaving only some of its lesser-known services active.

In a press release, Ken Hayward, the CEO of Redlasso, said the following:

“We are very disappointed in the actions of select networks.   We believe we have always acted within the law and have been respectful of the networks’ rights. Unfortunately, they have forced our hand and are denying the blogging community access to the Redlasso platform that beneficially tracks the usage of newsworthy clips across the web…”

What makes the Redlasso case interesting is not that a video sharing site attracted the ire of major media organizations. But rather, the nature of Redlasso’s technology.  Redlasso was not a traditional video-sharing platform, such as YouTube. It was a video editing tool that allowed users to crop out short segments news broadcasts and post them to their own site for the purpose of commentary and criticism.

Journalists and news organisations alike need to be aware of the Redlasso case, because even if the company itself never returns, the concept behind it likely will. The site gained a great deal of traction in its short life and its closure has left a void that, most likely, someone will seek to fill.

The idea behind Redlasso

The reason for Redlasso’s short-lived success was that it solved a problem. The problem is that blogs and other websites often include clips from mainstream media outlets in their sites. But doing so is very difficult. The process typically involves capturing the video from a television, which requires special hardware and software, and editing it for both resolution and length.

While fair use and fair dealing provisions may well accept such limited use of a copyrighted material, the simple truth is that most bloggers do not have the tools or the skills to capture the work. Furthermore, those who do would have to record everything, perhaps with a Digital Video Record (DVR) such as TIVO, just to capture the few moments they wanted to talk about.

Redlasso solved this problem elegantly. If a user saw something on television they wanted to comment on, they could log into Redlasso, scroll through the network’s archive find the relevant element. Then they’d clip the portion they wanted and embed the video.

The end result for users was a short clip of the news story they were interested in, tailored specifically to what they wanted to talk about. The problem for Redlasso was that providing the service required that they store and display many hours of the networks’ material. This is the eventual reason the lawsuit was filed.

But even if Redlasso is shut down, the love bloggers have for mainstream media content is not going to go away. Furthermore, as long as there is a desire to include such content, someone will line up to make it happen.

Napster parallels

In 2000, after a two-year lawsuit, the music industry successfully shut down the file sharing service Napster. At the time,  Napster was the leading file sharing service and the most popular tool for trading files online.

However, even though the leading service at the time was closed, the idea of sharing files over the Internet was far from dead. Almost immediately new services and networks sprang up to fill the void of Napster, Over time, new technologies,  ones resistant to legal action, began to emerge and they quickly grew in popularity.

The end result of the lawsuit was that, according to the latest statistics compiled by the international Federation of the Phonographic Industry have shown a steady increase in the number of albums uploaded to file sharing networks.

The oft-cited reason is that the music industry was slow to come online with legitimate alternatives to file sharing networks. Apples iTunes store, the first major push by record labels to sell music over the web, did not launch until 2003,  approximately three years after the closure of Napster. This gave file sharing companies three years to not just develop new technologies, but to also gain traction with users.

The result was that file sharing became normal behaviour long before legitimate alternatives were offered. The music industry has been suffering for it ever since.

Journalists can not allow themselves to suffer the same fate.

Fixing the Redlasso problem

If the Redlasso problem is that bloggers want to embed news clips into their site, then the best long-term solution is to offer them a legitimate service to let them do just that. Whether it is partnering with Redlasso itself or using existing services, such as Voxant Newsroom, offering a legitimate service for websites to embed small samples of news video is going to be the best strategy for stopping ones with a more questionable legal position.

As I said before in my posts about thriving in the “Me” era, consumers want control over when and how they access the content they view. You can, in many cases, retain more control over your work by letting go.

In this case,  the music industry has set an example for what happens when one tries to wage a legal war without first offering legal alternatives. The results clearly show that you can not change consumer opinion by lawsuit alone. At some point, you do have to meet the needs of the user.

Conclusions

For better or worse, the love for embedding content, especially from mainstream media, is not going anywhere. Whether it is to provide proof for their article, to criticise the news coverage or simply to make fun of a particular story, bloggers enjoy posting media clips to their site. And, in many cases, the law may allow them to do so.

This can either be a problem and something to be fought against, or an opportunity. The industry has to decide now. With Redlasso, the genie is out of the bottle. Lawsuits can not put it back in.

For the survival of the industry, it is important that networks be prepared for this love.  They must be ready to accommodate it in a way that works to their advantage. Although the lawsuits may eventually get rid of Redlasso, it will not stop others from filling the need later.

It is not a matter of if the need will be filled, but rather, a matter of who is doing it and how much the content creators get out of it.