YouTube to Pay Fees for Some Video Makers to Fight Takedowns

Since its inception, YouTube has been embroiled in long and bitter battles over copyright infringement. And over the years, the video site has increased its policing of pirated material. But too often, the company says, the demands of copyright holders to take down videos go too far.

Now, YouTube is taking the unusual step of financially supporting YouTube creators so they can fight back.

YouTube said Thursday that it would pick up the legal costs of a handful of video creators that the company thinks are the targets of unfair takedown demands. It said the creators it chose legally use third-party content under “fair use” provisions carved out for commentary, criticism, news and parody.

An example of fair use is a segment by TV host Stephen Colbert that rebroadcasts cable news clips for the comedian to react to.

Constantine Guiliotis, who goes by Dean and whose channel dedicated to debunking sightings of unidentified flying objects has just over 1,000 subscribers, is one of the video makers YouTube will defend. Guiliotis has received three takedown notices from copyright holders of videos that he has found online and posted to his YouTube channel, UFO Theater.

In his videos, Guiliotis includes the videos he found but also provides analysis and commentary, which YouTube argues is within the guidelines of fair use rules. The site reposted the videos after its review and told Guiliotis it would defend him against any future legal action. Like the other creators YouTube has selected, Guiliotis has not been sued for his videos.

“It was very gratifying to know a company cares about fair use and to single out someone like me,” Guiliotis said.

YouTube is starting small, initially supporting four video creators, but it said it may expand its program.

The company said it wanted to protect free speech and educate users on fair use. But its announcement is also is aimed at strengthening loyalty with video creators. YouTube faces new competition from Facebook, Twitter and traditional media companies that are trying to get consumers to upload more content onto their platforms.

On Wednesday, in a sign of how competitive the online video business has become, YouTube named Neal Mohan its new head of product and design. Mohan has been a top advertising executive atGoogle, which owns YouTube.

“We want, when we can, to have our users’ backs,” said Fred von Lohmann, legal director for copyright at YouTube. “We believe even the small number of videos we are able to protect will make a positive impact on the entire YouTube ecosystem.”

Lohmann said the number of legitimate videos affected by takedown notices was small. And big entertainment companies are not always the most aggressive in demanding that the videos be removed. But the problem is growing, said Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

“It’s become incredibly easy to take down legitimate content, and we need a counterbalance to that situation, so we welcome YouTube’s announcement,” McSherry said.

Last spring, the Ohio Channel, a public broadcaster that covers Ohio state government, demanded that YouTube take down a video by the local chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice, an abortion rights group, that contained footage of a legislative committee meeting. The clip of the meeting was part of a bigger video meant as criticism of the behavior of some lawmakers. The group is now one of the video creators that YouTube has vowed to protect from copyright suits.

“We aren’t a large organization,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “We just have six people here, so having YouTube’s support allowed us to not be afraid and to stand our ground on this situation.”

EU Plans Crackdown on Bitcoin to Curb Terrorism Funding

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European Union countries plan a crackdown on virtual currencies and anonymous payments made online and via pre-paid cards in a bid to tackle terrorism financing after the Paris attacks, a draft document seen by Reuters said.

EU interior and justice ministers will gather in Brussels on Friday for a crisis meeting called after the Paris carnage of last weekend.

They will urge the European Commission, the EU executive arm, to propose measures to “strengthen controls of non-banking payment methods such as electronic/anonymous payments and virtual currencies and transfers of gold, precious metals, by pre-paid cards,” draft conclusions of the meeting said.

Bitcoin is the most common virtual currency and is used as a vehicle for moving money around the world quickly and anonymously via the web without the need for third-party verification.

Electronic anonymous payments can be made also with pre-paid debit cards purchased in stores as gift cards.

EU ministers also plan “to curb more effectively the illicit trade in cultural goods,” the draft document said.

Pressure for Yahoo Turnaround Puts Squeeze on Mayer

Lack of a long-awaited turnaround at Yahoo has put pressure on chief executive Marissa Mayer to prove she has what it takes to revive the faded Internet pioneer.

Investors, who were already disappointed by low momentum under Mayer, were given more to worry about this week.

A hedge fund with a stake in Yahoo urged the Internet giant Thursday to drop its planned spin off of its holdings in China’s Alibaba.

The hedge fund, Starboard Value, said the company should instead sell its “core” Internet operations.

The request came with Yahoo on track to set up a new corporate entity holding its multi-billion dollar Alibaba stake in the coming months.

“We have grown increasingly frustrated with your unwillingness to accept our help and your dismissive approach to our serious concerns about the current situation at Yahoo,” Starboard said in a letter to Mayer.

Potential tax hit
The Alibaba stake spin off plan has been clouded by concerns that it may not get tax-free status from US authorities, resulting in a hefty tax bill for Yahoo shareholders.

Starboard said in the letter that the spin off of the entity called Aabaco Holdings “is not Yahoo’s best alternative” and argued that “instead, you should be exploring a sale of Yahoo’s core search and display advertising businesses.”

Based on current stock prices, Yahoo’s market value is almost entirely from its stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan, according to Starboard.

The hedge fund was worried about the plan to transfer the Alibaba stake to the new company and distributing stock in what could amount to a taxable gift of some $30 billion to shareholders.

Starboard would prefer that Yahoo, instead, split off its own Internet operations in a technical move apparently aimed at avoiding a tax bill.

However the outcome would be the same: one company running Yahoo’s core business and another handling the investment in Alibaba.

“The important thing is for the spin off to happen one way or another,” BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis told AFP.

The original decision to split Yahoo’s holding in Alibaba was seen as an attempt to calm restless shareholders, starting with activist fund Starboard which lobbied for the strategy.

From honeymoon to divorce
After slightly more than three years as Yahoo chief, the honeymoon seems to be over for Mayer, who is the latest in a line of chief executives who have tried to restore Yahoo to its former glory.

Despite her lack of experience running a large Internet firm, investors embraced Mayer as a young engineer with proven credentials at Google and a fashionably glamorous image.

She was welcomed as a savior after Yahoo was eclipsed by Google and left to wither in its shadow.

Mayer made a priority of tailoring Yahoo offerings to modern mobile lifestyles.

On her watch, widely used products such as Yahoo Mail were modernized.

Mayer also went on something of a startup buying binge, mostly using Alibaba money being pumped into Yahoo’s coffers, in addition to launching a series of digital magazines.

A promising entry by Yahoo into the fantasy sports games arena has caught the attention of law enforcement officials in New York.

Yahoo was issued a subpoena in an investigation into whether daily fantasy sports games violate gambling laws, sources close to the case said Thursday.

Like other fantasy sports sites, Yahoo allows participants to select players for a virtual team and then use the real-world performance of the athletes to win prizes.

The companies claim they are games of skill rather than gambling operations.

Counting Mayer’s days
An array of senior Yahoo executives have jumped ship in recent months, and some industry observers question how much longer Mayer will remain at the helm.

A headline “The last days of Marissa Mayer?” topped an article on Forbes magazine’s website Thursday.

If Yahoo’s core business continues to deteriorate, “there is a good chance that in 12 months from now, Marissa Mayer may not be there,” SunTrust analyst Bob Peck told CNBC.

BGC Financial’s Gillis added that “it’s a difficult business to turn around.”

“It’s a company that fundamentally needs to be restructured, and it’s not her field of expertise.”

Several analysts, however, contend that just replacing Mayer will not right Yahoo’s listing ship.

“The job of the CEO is to innovate; to outsmart competition, to invest,” Global Equities analyst Trip Chowdhry told AFP. “It is not her job to find a way to dodge paying taxes.”

Chowdhry saw Mayer as the right person for the job because she understands the technology. If someone needs to go, Chowdhry reasoned, it is chief financial officer Ken Goldman who is “not making the right decision.”

Silicon Valley analyst Robert Enderle faulted the Yahoo board, and not Mayer, for lack of turn-around momentum.

“They knew she was going to have a steep learning curve and didn’t back her up well at all,” Enderle said.

“The right board likely could direct Mayer more successfully and avoid the disruption and cost of replacing yet one more CEO.”

YouTube’s New Translation Tools Aimed at Content Globalisation

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In an effort to expand its global reach, YouTube announced a set of new tools Thursday to help translate the titles and descriptions of its vast trove of videos into multiple languages.

YouTube estimates more than 80 percent of its videos are viewed outside the United States and more than 60 percent of a YouTube channel’s views come from outside its country of origin.

But countless videos that might have been relevant to viewers went unseen because of a search process that was limited to a single language, said Vladimir Vuskovic, product manager for YouTube Globalisation.

With the new tools, YouTube offers the ability for titles and descriptions of the videos on its site to appear in multiple languages, “which helps with discovery of content,” Vuskovic said.

YouTube is offering three new services. Those who make videos can translate their titles and descriptions, as well as the subtitles for videos that contain them, into 76 languages, including Mandarin, French and Spanish.

In addition, vendors who offer translation services to Google Play developers can do the translation. YouTube said that included translation into 57 languages.

Finally, YouTube said it would let viewers do the translating through crowdsourcing, in which YouTube would screen multiple answers to determine the correct translations. It said that potentially enabled translations into any language.

In a test, the website Vice translated videos into Spanish and Portuguese and saw viewing time increase more than 100 percent, the company said.

Deron Triff, TED director of global distribution, said the company uploaded 60,000 translated videos to YouTube in a single day in June, which provided access to viewers speaking Farsi, Vietnamese, Turkish and Russian, among other languages.

For small organizations such as TED, “YouTube creates an on-ramp for us to parts of the world where we wouldn’t be able to set up relationships,” Triff said.

Daniel Aguayo, a social media specialist at Digipendent Media, said the option is important for emerging artists and brands but also a major step toward growing YouTube’s overall audience.

“From a content creation aspect, the No. 1 growing video content creation sector is East Asia and Thailand,” he said.

“If you can translate Mandarin, Cambodian, Thai and different languages in the Indian dialect, that’s another three billion people nobody’s talking to because of the language barrier.”

Dropbox Brings Annotation Feedback Feature for Web Users

Dropbox has made it easier for users to work on the same document on the Web even when they are on the move. Users can now easily provide feedback on any document right at the spot they are referring to. The new Web feature is currently limited to Dropbox Business teams through the early access program.

Annotations would be offering Dropbox Web users “clear, focused feedback” as per the firm. To give feedback in a document, users can point and click anywhere inside the file preview or drag a rectangle over the area where they need to give a feedback.

As for the receivers, they can simply click on an annotation from the comments sidebar to directly jump to the right spot to view the comment in context. “This works even if a comment was added on an older version of the file – you can preview that version to see where the comment was originally left, so you don’t have to worry about losing track of your comment history when you incorporate feedback,”added the company blog post.

Dropbox says that annotations are available for almost all the document file types including pdf, photos, Microsoft Word, and Photoshop files that have previews on dropbox.com.

Last month Dropbox made its ‘Paper’ feature available for users. The document collaboration tool’s interface is clean and simple. It aims to stand alongside other document collaboration applications such as Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365. Dropbox has not yet mentioned when it would bring Paper out of the beta stage and officially roll it out to users worldwide. It intends to make the platform more feature-rich and stable based on the feedback.