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Hot on the Web

Sharing your video online

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on June 16, 2006
(Issue 2424, The Help Desk)

Just a few months ago, we wrote in this space about all the services – some free – that offer free image hosting. From stashing photos of your eBay auction items to your family photo albums, image hosting services are almost ubiquitous on the Web these days.

In truth, though, that column should have been written several years ago when that particular phenomenon was still new. Because the hot new trend now is free video hosting.

Thank cheap hard drive prices and new video compression tools for this development – it is, apparently, cost effective to offer users free storage space and then sell advertising to display to anyone who views those files, whether they be images, video, Web pages, etc.

Video to go

For the past few months, friends have been sending me more and more e-mails with links to interesting (or twisted or bizarre) videos hosted on a site called

If there is a limit to the amount of storage space you have for videos here, I haven't found it in their Help section. And there are hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million or more, video clips on YouTube.

Now, are they all good? Assuredly not. There are a ton of high school and college kids with video cameras these days, and most of them seem to be uploading themselves and their friends acting goofy into the camera.

But there are also an awful lot of local bands uploading performance video and or their music videos to YouTube.

On the other hand (getting back to the horrific for a second) in the Video Games category, people are uploading their favorite sequences of themselves playing video games.

Okay, that's wrong.

You can browse videos by category or search using key words on YouTube; the videos seem to be secure in that you can't download them and save them to your hard drive (they seem to be all converted from whatever format you upload them as into Flash). Once you have a free account, you can save your favorites, create a friends list, even send e-mail to other members within the YouTube environment.

Another popular site has been one of the more popular of the image-hosting services for awhile now. But unlike YouTube, Photobucket isn't a destination site – i.e., you don't go there to view other people's videos or images.

Rather, you stash them on PhotoBucket and then link to them from your other sites – video clips as well as images. You can also create galleries of your own material – but they're not available for the general public to browse; only those you invite are able to view them.

It's a different model, but one with a lot of appeal for those who want to take advantage of the broad geographic reach of the Internet to stay in contact with existing friends and family while still maintaining their privacy. Not everyone is in college and wants the whole world to seem them and their friends drunk in New Orleans over spring break.

MySpace joins the craze

Ultimately, the most popular video sharing service may end up being – although it's not a real video sharing outlet. But MySpace has added video clips to every member's free profile space, so you can now have video alongside your photos.

The legal stuff

As with the original incarnation of, when it allowed bands to upload their songs in MP3 format for fans to listen to (a niche MySpace currently fills), these video hosting firms are going to have to deal with the issues of copyright and misrepresentation.

With thousands of new videos being uploaded daily to YouTube and MySpace, how do you keep users from uploading pirated materials?

In the short term, you can't. Just as magazine and book editors can't possibly know if one of their writers is plagiarizing existing articles in what they submit, and rely on trust to avoid copyright issues, so there is a huge amount of trust on the parts of YouTube, MySpace and Photobucket.

It might not be so well-placed, however. Yes, they do have prohibitions against pirated stock in their user agreements. And, yes, there are already laws against such things.

But a writer submitting a book manuscript or magazine article has longterm financial and professional incentives to not commit plagiarism. If caught, their career is over (unless you're syndicated columnist Molly Ivins, who somehow admits to plagiarism and keeps her gig).

Teen-agers and young adults – who are, after all, the primary target audience of PhotoBucket and MySpace – have no such disincentives to piracy.

Some sort of legal showdown with the entertainment industry seems likely before the video hosting segment of the online economy is completely stabilized.