Monday, May 17, 2010

17 Grand Tour Racing Footage Disappearing From Youtube

Internet sites like Youtube has become a popular avenue for decentralized distribution of media content, whether it is a music video, a film trailer, a clip from a recent concert or why, even footage from cycling races. The embed function effectively pollinates such content throughout the world wide web in a matter of seconds!

But along with that comes bearing the responsibility of the fact that you could be reproducing unlicensed content, hence violating someone's rights to distributing that material.

For sometime now, Youtube account holders like "World Cycling Archives" and some others have been giving the rest of us the day to day highlights from big Pro Tour races. As viewers, we hold news and entertainment first, and hardly care about how these videos are sourced.

To be honest, these videos thrill me as much as it may thrill you. Racing footage such as those from the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia propel forward the sport to a far greater audience. Besides, which television channel gives you 10 minutes worth of cycling footage without advertisements and other hoopla, or even cares to broadcast racing action from around the world more frequently?

But posting 10 mins worth of a 6 hour race is not considered innocent. The speed with which our unseen heroes post these videos on Youtube is exactly counterbalanced by the media raid from ASO, Eurosport and Rai TV who want the rights to their content respected.

Consider the case of the account holder "World Cycling Archives" who has been amassing an impressive collection of clips from all kinds of races; right from the ones you can pronounce to the ones which will get your mouth tired and tongue tied. The channel is often in the top 50 list for "Most Viewed This Month" and "Most Viewed This Week". This directly tells one about the popularity that cycling in competition form is gaining on the internet.

But this account is not new to receiving claims from media companies and has even been banned twice in the past. The funny thing is that iterations of the channel keep popping back up with fresh content.

For those of us who were enjoying his clips from the exciting Giro d'Italia, the timing couldn't be worse though. The account holder received a claim from Rai TV this morning, that prevents him from continuing to do uploads from the race.

That leaves one more claim to go before it is shut down, as another similar claim was thrown in by Eurosport/TF1. The account admin told me : "It seems to be impossible to bring videos from the big events (the 3 grand tours): we are claimed for the fourth time in a row on a big event. This means that as we are going on, eventually the channel will be shut down - as it has been twice before. Of course, we know the game by now. We'll see what the future will bring."

I'm a media ignoramus so this essentially provokes me to ask you readers how much these companies "lose" in terms of revenue due to unauthorized distribution. Is it such a substantial figure that that they cannot allow a mere 10 minutes worth of footage to go online? You would think that popularization gets the better of such losses over time.

Do you consider Youtube race clips as entertainment or an annoying scourge that has to be stopped? Please discuss below you thoughts and opinions.

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  1. Anonymous2:53 PM

    I'm not sure about bike racing but it annoyed the heck out of me when I received a claim on a Steve Vai concert that I had uploaded, basically all filmed on my own camera. Seriously? A claim on a minute and a half of video is just telling me someone is just being a desperate copyright whore.

  2. When the case could easily be made the youtube videos are a great promotion tool for which the companies pay nothing, one wonders why these powerful companies even bother? Is it the exercise of power for its own sake? Or is corporate culture fundamentally fascist?

  3. Anonymous2:00 PM

    i love being able to watch races online, both current & historical, and hope avenues to do so continue to exist. On a completely pragmatic level, artists deserve the right to present themselves and their songs in a manner they approve of, and any media company spends a lot of $$ on infrastructure to be able to provide coverage. is the system just or fun? that's another question. when anyone who gets paid to make or do anything gives all that away for free (what pays your rent?), then one can start trashing intellectual copyright issues...

  4. Hey Ron, this is an extremely complex problem because media providers have bills to pay too. So the question is, how do the folks who shoot and package and distribute the content that winds up on YouTube get paid for all their hard work?

    I've written about micropayments, a penny a click, and believe that whatever pitfalls they have, they'd be useful for addressing this situation. A small payment to watch could actually work in the favor of bloggers, who could get a slice for populating a clip or whatever. It wouldn't have to be much, something like a penny, that users wouldn't give a second thought to, yet with the critical mass of the Web would amount to real money.

    My full philippic on this:

  5. If the copyright holders can't deliver the content through a ubiquitous online provider of their own, then they can use YouTube with pay options to get their royalties. YouTube does rent content now. Barring current contracts with another provider I cannot see any excuse why their content is not available online. One thing is for sure, I won't pay a bloated DVD price any longer. This is the type of attitude that pours Miracle Grow on Bit torrent.

    Msg for WCC...I'll follow you anywhere if these clowns can't get it together.

  6. I don't know about the bigger picture, but I do have a few thoughts:

    I personally do not purchase any media coverage other than paying my internet bill. I do not subscribe to cable TV, satellite TV, or any other television source. I would not pay for this, even with my online race coverage being pulled. I do watch cycling clips on youtube. No media company is losing money that I could potentially be contributing, as I would rather read a race report than pay to watch a partial clip.

    Second, if the major media companies were willing to upload race highlights onto youtube for me to watch for free, I would be willing to put up with ads on youtube videos. This could be a source of income without charging the final consumer.

    Outside of bicycling, Moto GP offers subscription viewing for races. Customers can purchase individual races or complete seasons. The videos are very high quality and offer complete race coverage with pre- and post-race interviews and shows. Race organizers and media companies could take a hint that some fans will pay a little for only the material they want. Some consumers won't pay for 100 channels of TV if they are only interested in 3 or 4 channels. Moto GP has figured out a way to offer great coverage for less than a cable subscription.

  7. About the mediarights: you say you don't know how it all works, well neither do I but who does?: the matter is very complex.
    Who is involved? First there is the local organization of the race. Then there is UCI. Then there is the company (might be a tv-station) that makes the pictures. Then there are licensed tv-stations. I suppose everybody has got some rights in it.

    Let's make it a bit more complicated. To my surprise some weeks ago we received a mail on our account from a UK-based company it was about putting pre-roll ads on our videos. I will give you an excerpt of their mail: "By way of a little introduction, I work for ( which is a leading sales distributor of high quality, short-form video content (or clips) to Internet and mobile companies around the world. We also specialise in helping clients regaining control of their IP from unauthorised uploads on user generated sites. Our Board includes Peter Bazalgette (former Chief Creative Officer of Endemol Worldwide), Rupert Dilnott-Cooper (former CEO of Carlton Media International) and Patrick Walker currently Director of Media Partnerships (EMEA) at Google/Youtube. We represent commercial interests of some of the leading TV producers and rights holders in the UK including The Football Association, Optomen Television, Comic Relief, Tiger Aspect, Hat Trick Productions, Maverick TV, Bentley Productions, Eagle Rock, Target Entertainment, Zodiak International and ESPN International to name a few. We are currently one of YouTube's largest partners in the UK achieving over a million views per day of our high quality content. We have agreed with YouTube to sell our own pre roll advertising inventory resulting in much greater yields than previously obtainable on YouTube, and have an in house sales team to do this. We have sold campaigns on our content recently for brands such as Guinness, Microsoft, EDF, Renault, Nissan, Baileys and Sky. We believe we could sell pre roll campaigns on your content (on your various channels) earning you greater revenue. " Frankly this looks a bit confusing to me. I'm not sure what our position is in their story and what the position is of the company itself. But anyway, I hate pre-roll ads.

    Now about the loss to the big companies, I will give you some figures. The Giro-videos we posted on YouTube had over 20,000 views up to 45,000 views for the crashes-video before they were removed. Compare this to the Giro-videos on the Rai-website (with pre-roll ads!): they have between 3,000 and 6,000 views. We didn' post videos this week but Rai did not get more views this week, despite the fact we put a link to their videos on our channel (we are not vindictive)! The explanation is simple: the Rai website and YouTube don't have the same visitors. Also, the insight YouTube gives on our posted videos show that there is only a minor part of the views by people in Italy (which are the potential visitors of the Rai website). Conclusion: Rai won't lose much on our videos.

  8. I think this is exactly the point: our channel gives extra exposure to cycling races.
    This is specifically true for the minor races who have only exposure on local tv-stations: who would be able or even bother to watch these races unless you serve them to a larger public on a plate?
    I give you some examples from the latest uploads:
    * Flèche du Sud: excerpts from a newsbulletin on a local tv-station in Luxemburg
    * Tour de Picardie: the same from a regional tv-station in France
    * 4 jours de Dunkerque: the same from a regional tv-station in France, excerpts from a live broadcast on a tv-station in Belgium, excerpts from a livestream on a French tv-website
    * Vuelta a Asturias: excerpts from live broadcasts on a local tv-station in Spain
    Many people can not watch live coverage because:
    - they are at work
    - they are asleep
    - there is no live coverage where they live.
    People like to watch cycling videos on a website like ours because:
    - you get everything together in one place
    - it is easy to watch, no ads
    - you can watch whenever you want
    - you can give comment on a forum

    Now these may all be nice arguments, but personally I think the big companies are not counting their losses, it's more a matter of principle. The bottom line is we're still talking about the use of copyright protected material and the big companies won't let you use it unless you pay for it. It's the same for other main events such as the Olympic Games, World Cup Soccer etc. Popularity is a problem in this case: it's no coincidence that our last claim came at the moment our channel was #43 in the YouTube Top-100 of all channels worldwide. The same thing happened to us before. If no one is watching your video, nobody cares about copyright. If you have 100,000 views in one day the copyright chasers will hunt you down. Maybe someone should plead for a sort of 'fair-use policy' for websites like YouTube...

    A final word about the persons who do the uploads: what's in there for them, what do they gain? To have a popular YouTube-channel for some time until it gets closed?
    Now I will speak for myself. The basic idea of WCC was to have a place where you can watch footage from virtually every pro-race on the UCI calendar (down to cat. 1 and some of cat. 2). To create such a site takes a lot of time, work, energy, stress, hardware and software... and it keeps going day after day. (Sometimes we have to capture the live coverage of 3 or 4 races at the same time, you can imagine.) So why on earth are we doing it? The urge to do it came from the fact that such a place didn't exist anywhere. One can wonder why there isn't any official site where everything is gathered and every copyrightholder can get his earnings for the footage... In the meantime, as there are similar channels on YouTube dedicated to other sports, we started off WCC. Now it's out there and you can watch all the footage anytime worldwide for free: let's face it, it's too good to be true!

    So Ron, here you have some material to reflect upon.

  9. Fantastic views from everyone, and great breadth of writing from World Cycling Channel. I will always be a fan of your channel and completely understand that what you have here is a superb niche. Because :

    1) People want to watch cycling races.

    2) Not a single TV channel broadcasts all the races on the calender.

    3) People are busy and like the convenience of Youtube! Embed feature and linking spreads the word so they can discuss these races with their friends and family. Its that simple.

    I still would like a media person to give their side of the story. Is it really just a matter of principle or is there some revenue being lost out of this affair, in terms of lost visitors to native websites.

  10. Can I come over and ride you bike while you're at work? You're not using it, so obviously you are not making money on it then. And by riding your bike around I give it (and by association you and your blog) valuable free public exposure. Looked at that way, you should thank me for riding your bike while you're at work.
    The laws on photo and video ownership are clear. It belongs to the video/photo creator when s/he makes it. And s/he does not give up the rights to that content just because it is easy to copy, repost or borrow. Or swipe.

  11. Firstly hats off to world cycling channel. They do a great job.

    Weve also been hit with a couple of copyright claims, all from TF1 owners of eurosport (but interestingly none from sporza or tf3 whos feeds we have also put up)

    Like wcc we have the same premise although just for races involving one team. To provide an archive over the years for cyling races, for some of them the highlights are maybe a few minutes from french regional tv, and without accounts such as ourself or world cycling channel this race footage will simply be lost. There is no aim for monetary gain, or promotion, simply to give cycling fans a valuable record of races.

    As with WCC we received many thousands of views for our giro footage, and our cessation to put them online has not boosted Rai's views. Interestingly as mentioned before, we used footage from sporza and received no copyright notice from Rai.

  12. Anonymous9:38 AM

    Ron, thanks for bringing this important issue to your readers and hats off to commenters who have direct experience/advice regarding such.

    As a cycling fan, I see nothing but hostility to anything/everything re. the world of cycling. Even among supporters, valuable youtube clips are under attack. Solutions require more communication, not less.

  13. Buying rights to an event is not complex. It's relatively simple.

    You approach owner of said rights, in the case of the Giro, this is RCS, in the case of Le Tour, it's ASO.

    You tell them what platform you plan to broadcast on and how many minutes you want to buy. They deal these in very nicely done bundles.

    For example, the standard live broadcast package is for the last two hours of a stage. There will be a package for race highlights and a news access package that allows you to have about 3-5 minutes of footage and actuality.

    They will tell you how much it costs based on your needs. If you are willing to pay, then you can purchase a package and exploit it within the terms of your agreement.

    It's no more complicated than that.

    Are WCC paying for a licence to exploit? No. Do they have any right to complain about claims going in? No, unless they fancy covering the six figure cost of daily broadcasts.

    Even a short news package on a local channel is going to cost them several grand to get it filmed and reported. Are WCC contributing to that cost or making this? NO.

    Youtube revenues are paltry. They simply aren't covering costs of operators. I'm not surprised Youtube have acted and rights holders have put in claims. By illegally distributing their material WCC effectively undermines their opportunity to exploit it in that space.

    Seriously, I can't see what the complaint is here. Of course they'll claim when it gets popular, why waste effort for a few clicks. WCC came onto the radar and got nailed. As for, that's a chancer's email, generic attempt to get your business without check if you have the rights.

    Here's a case in point: TOC makes a fair bit of content available online. Would they be able to attract the audience if it was going up on Youtube at the same time? Rai's strategy and promotion is moot as they're not english language and therefore are at a disadvantage in the global context.

    If I was any rights holding broadcaster I'd do everything I could to protect my considerable investment, and that includes shutting off pirate operations.

  14. It isnt all about the big tours etc. Where else could be people see highlights of for instance the Tour de Haut Var, or the Tour de Picardie which were not shown on television outside of france.

    This isnt an attempt by worldcyclingchannel (or tsf) to make money, or profit, or impact the broadcasters revenue

    It is purely an effort to bring cycling races to people who dont otherwise have access to them.

    Ive spend ages this evening watching german news programs to try and grab maybe one minute of so of the closing stages of todays Bayern Rhundfart (Without success). Thats not about profit, thats about bringing cycling fans what they want, that isnt being provided.

  15. Great discussion from everyone. I strongly agree with Worldcyclingarchives and Teamskyfans. The question is does an entity really "exploiting" when he puts a mere 6-10 mins of footage on Youtube provided he links to it. And should they be paying for licenses to do so? In the name of spreading the sport to bigger audiences, I think media companies should be a little more lax about this issue.

  16. From a cycling fan's point of view living in a country with little to no live cycling on TV, I love the fact that sites like exist. It allowed me to stay up every night till 1:30am watching the most engrosing Giro live. WCC allows me to catch up with everything else.

    But let's face facts. Media companies aren't in it to spread the love of cycling. They're in it to sell advertising. Now I know it and you know it, that more people viewing globally is more eyeballs on ads, but until they figure out how to successfully sell advertising online, unfortunately, channels like WCC are going to cop it in the butt.....but thanks for having a crack!


  17. Good post and disussion. But should we let the Media companies dictates our watching options?

    How about using the "fair usage" legal-whimwhaz ?
    There is no profit, there is just fun in this.

    I agree that the Media Companies may feel a little disrespected, but money are not about respect, it's all about money, and it will never good enought for them, so they see the insecurity of the new and uncontrollable media channels so they want to stop it.
    Should we accept their decison of letting us NOT see old and recent bicycling races on our premises?
    What's the alternative? 1984?

    (thank you for this fine blog!)


Thank you. I read every single comment.