YouTube has changed a great deal over the five years or so in which I’ve had an account with it. These days, every time I post a new video, I anticipate ‘Third Party Matching Content’ being slapped upon it within seconds of it appearing. At one time, using a soundtrack from a video you ‘sampled’ could land you in hot water, so I’d mute the original audio and overdub my own; then even the visuals began to be subject to copyright infringement. It begs the question what is YT for? Is it still supposed to be a platform for the powerless and unknown to make themselves heard or is it merely another corporate tool that serves the rich and famous?
Over the past five years, I’ve produced several series on YouTube. First up was a parody of a 1970s ITV regional company magazine show, ‘Cumberland at Six’; this was followed by (among others) the spoof documentary ‘Exposure’, the weekly ’25 Hour News’ bulletins, various ‘Top of the Pops’ spoofs, and what has undoubtedly been my most popular saga (in terms of views and audience response), ‘Buggernation Street’, an ongoing soap opera in which any resemblance to another ongoing soap opera is purely intentional.
‘Buggernation Street’ is not for the faint-hearted; the humour is bawdy and near-the-knuckle, but is a graduate of the same Great British academy of licentious satire as James Gillray, George Cruickshank and the Earl of Rochester – even Derek and Clive. Every resident of this grubby terraced street is engaged in some illicit sexual practice, and a good deal of the humour arises from descriptions of these activities being discussed in broad Lancashire accents by the most unlikeliest practitioners of them imaginable. The footage is drawn from early 70s ‘Coronation Street’ episodes, invoking instant nostalgia if you’re old enough to have been watching back then; for those who remember long-gone characters such as Jerry Booth or Alan Howard, it’s a twisted trip down Memory Lane; for those who don’t, it doesn’t really matter. The parody takes on a life of its own and can be enjoyed by anyone not easily offended. Albert Tatlock, for example, was always a grumpy old git; but in my take on the character, he becomes a foul-mouthed bullshitter who calls a spade a f***ing spade. The utter ridiculousness of the likes of him or Ena Sharples or Minnie Caldwell talking about intimate personal (and invariably sexual) subjects is partly what makes it funny.
Putting together each episode was no straightforward re-dubbing exercise. Simply placing rude words into the mouths of the characters wasn’t enough; there had to be a storyline to follow as well. And because I had certain favourite characters, I would try to ensure they appeared each time, something that necessitated upwards of six or seven different old ‘Corrie’ episodes being recut into one ‘Buggernation’. Working without a script, I’d improvise dialogue once I’d worked out how each sampled clip could be segued into the next. There would usually be a central plot with a couple of subplots underneath it; and there was continuity too. Dipping into one episode randomly, the viewer could be confronted by references to events that had occurred several episodes previously, so it paid to follow the saga from the beginning. As an avid viewer pointed out, the emphasis on ‘Dad’s Army’-style catchphrases and the anticipation of them appearing also played its part.
‘Buggernation Street’ survived intact online for a good three years, spanning 28 episodes, until recently. ‘ITV plc’ has begun cracking down on the show, forcing me to remove the all-important pilot episode that introduces the cast because it was ‘blocked worldwide’. There was supposed to have been an EU ruling that allowed the use of copyrighted footage for purposes of satire, but I’ve yet to see this ruling prevent the censorious (not to say humourless) intervention of ‘The Man’. I monetise my videos, making a miniscule amount of money from each one if it acquires a sizeable amount of views; but if there is any copyright infringement, this stops. Fair enough; I can accept that as long as the video can still be seen. When even this isn’t enough to satisfy the claimant, the said video then receives the ‘blocked worldwide’ tag and I’ve no option but to take it down.
For me, the YouTube video is an outlet for a certain type of ‘artistic expression’ (for want of a less poncy word) that is supposed to represent the democracy of the internet. At the moment, this democracy feels more like it’s based on the Chinese model, with a glut of ‘official’ videos from the likes of Vevo and others clogging up the system and pushing the amateur to the periphery. A recent video of mine was blocked due to the BBC claiming copyright infringement simply because I used about ten seconds of the BBC4 logo at the beginning of something that ran for over 20 minutes; for the first time, I disputed the copyright claim and the video has been restored until the dispute is resolved. I’d put a lot of work into the video and it had been an instant success, not even gaining one single notorious ‘thumbs down’ on the way past 1000 views. It seemed a petty objection to me and I wasn’t prepared to concede defeat.
The way things are going, YT could end up as bland and predictable as MTV within five years, completely negating its initial intent. It wasn’t supposed to be one more promotional juggernaut for record companies or movie studios, but that’s what it’s on the road to becoming. Enjoy while you can…
© The Editor
9 thoughts on “VIDEO KILLED THE VIDEO STAR”
Yes, I too have been saddened to notice the ever increasing amount of content, both historic and contemporary, that seems to be disappearing from YouTube by the day. I fear that just like King Cnut we will unable to turn back this tide. So while we’re still here and while we still can, let us revel in what remains of the 21st Century’s simulacrum of the Library of Alexandria as it burns down around our very heads!
This little classic pertains more to yesterday’s topic…
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That was great – and where else would you be able to see that? YT is supposed to really be a ‘fan’s forum’, often sharing footage recorded off-air at the time, footage the companies now claiming they own the copyright on cared so much about that they destroyed the original tapes!
Here is another, by now classic, favourite of mine, watch now lest they take it down.
It’s astonishing that the whole YouTube website wasn’t hit with a ‘takedown notice’ itself in its early days, bearing in mind the business model was predicated on massive copyright infringement (particularly music).
Now that they have the market sewn-up they are ‘respectable’.
I wonder if a courageous member of Parliament couldn’t be persuaded to take up the cause & fight for artistic expression versus big business bullies? Perhaps the very peculiar John Mann MP – who seems to be the hardest working (mad) mann in Westminster – might be tempted to clamber up on yet another soapbox; his energy is clearly boundless:
“I am pleased to confirm that I am writing to the employers of those who are the most racist and abusive on the Internet.”
I never really saw YT in the same light as something like Napster. In many ways, I’ve always seen it as a repository for stuff nobody else wanted – according to ‘The Man’. And now he wants his ball back.
I know what you mean, Pet, but a Silicon Valley start-up hustling for funding as a “repository for stuff nobody else wanted” wouldn’t have got too far off the ground! I just had a quick look into its (brief) history – set-up in 2005 & flogged for $1.65 billion the following year!
“The purchase agreement between Google and YouTube came after YouTube presented three agreements with media companies in an attempt to escape the threat of copyright-infringement lawsuits.”
Time to pay the piper…
I just had a look for alternatives and Vimeo sounds pretty good, protection for ‘legitimate use’ for parody, etc.; maybe worth a look?
Way off-topic – apart from it’s on YouTube – I saw this on the news last night (for some unknown reason, given it’s not new) and I loved it… sort of ‘Ray Harryhausen in Hell’:
I guess I must have believed the hype! I am actually on Vimeo, but I’ve yet to post a video. Might be worth thinking about. That video is amazing, reminds me a little of what the Chapman Brothers used to do. On the subject of Ray Harryhausen, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the DIY version of the great man’s works I posted a few months back…
No, I hadn’t seen that; very good! I wish I had some of your creative energy…
(I have a horrible feeling that my childhood toys will have been binned years ago, although I like to kid myself that they are still in a boy in the attic.)
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Yes, YouTube has gotten worse. You may have heard about their policy chance? Please share this YouTube petition to get the change reversed: https://www.change.org/p/larry-page-cofounder-google-susan-wojcicki-ceo-of-youtube-eric-e-schmidt-executive-chairman-google-sergey-brin-co-founder-of-google-sridhar-ramaswamy-senior-vice-president-ads-commerce-youtube-please-restore-ad-revenue-for-journalists-reporting-on-wa?recruiter=393335316&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink
And here is a link to the video where I read the text of that petition and show examples of the wrongs YouTube is perpetrating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3migvCsRxi4
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