Redundancy is not enough; Embed swaps are a losing strategy

As Warner’s thoughtless copyright claims shorten the life expectancy of YouTube embeds, expect to see more bloggers turning to other services.

This solution keeps the post intact and, in many cases, provides a higher quality video to readers. But, as with all transitions, these improvements come with costs.

In my last post, I showed a screenshot of a blog post I wrote about female MCs in April 2008. Of the nine music videos embedded in the post, five are now disabled. How would swapping those embeds affect this post?

The first disabled vid is MC Lyte’s “Paper Thin”. Following Wayne’s lead, I found the video easily on the comprehensive music video archive MTV launched in October:

MC Lyte |MTV Music

In the months since the instance I embedded was disabled, no one has re-upped a new “Paper Thin” to YouTube but the search results for “mc lyte paper thin” suggest a few promising related artifacts. Among them, a live video of MC Lyte performing “Paper Thin” last year in Houston.

This seems reasonable, right? MTV provides the high-quality, authorized video, and YouTube (true to name) supplies the handicam bootleg. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers…

Comparison, MC Lyte on and

Where are the eyeballs? Where is the community? The MTVMusic video’s 142 views may seem roughly comparable to YouTube’s 229 views considering the number of users coming through each site on a daily basis… that is, until you consider that the YouTube clip has only been online for five days!

Searching MTVMusic returns a total of 19 MC Lyte music videos, no doubt a rich cache for fans, MCs, and scholars, but the search ends at official productions. On MTVMusic, you will not see anything like the home video that DJ McCoy posted of a live “Ching A Ling” / “Paper Thin” blend:

Another video removed from my post was a re-up of “Ladies First” by Queen Latifah and Monie Love. I ripped this video from its official channel and re-upped it under my own account because the official upload had disabled embedding. Unlike the MC Lyte video, re-ups by other fans have kept this video alive on YouTube (albeit at lower quality than its MTVMusic entry.)

Queen Latifah |MTV Music

The viewership and participation gaps between YouTube and MTVMusic are much more stark in this case. “Ladies First” has received zero comments and only 83 views on MTVMusic compared with 7 comments and 6,000 combined views on YouTube.

These numbers belie the presence that this video had before the great Warner purge. YouTube generously provides a big hunk of data for users who have suffered a DMCA takedown. Below is a screenshot from the “Content ID Matches” tab in the “My Account” section of my user pages:

Screenshot of behind the scenes on a disabled video

Notice the stats: 28,244 views; 38 comments.

Back in December, I documented my frustration at the loss of these comments and included some of the rich reflective conversation that was emerging around this music video; one that has not aired on cable TV more than a handful of times in the last decade.

Unfortunately, reinstating this valuable discursive space is not as simple as that “Resolve Copyright” button might suggest. Clicking it produces the following notice:

Screenshot of Resolve Copyright page

I can’t really dispute that my video “may have audio … owned or licensed by” Warner Music Group, but I also don’t want my video blocked worldwide. I suppose it’s time to try AudioSwap. What do I have to lose?

Screenshot of the YouTube AudioSwap interface (1/2)

The “I’m Feeling Lucky” button automagically selects “Jane Doe” by Alicia Keys…

Screenshot of the YouTube AudioSwap interface (2/2)

I click Publish, wait a few minutes, and my video is back on-line… sort of.

Hm. If only Microsoft had purchased YouTube instead of Google, we might have an automated Songsmith plugin instead.

Google search results for Queen Latifah and Monie Love

With archives like MTVMusic and fans eager to re-up takedown victims, we can expect continued access to videos like “Paper Thin” and “Ladies First” but do we sacrifice more than convenience by relying on such a rotten game of hunt the wumpus each time we need to find a video? Furthermore, are we naive to expect Google search will remain reliable in the future? What will happen if new pressures compel Google to further filter search results for any and all “content that may” … ?

(Cross-posted to the YouTomb blog.)

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