Over the past weekend, Internet pop sensation Justin Bieber went to upload the music video of his new song called “Pray” to his personal YouTube site. He was in for a rude surprise: YouTube automatically blocked his video upload on “copyright grounds” that the video contained content from Universal Music Group (UMG), parent company to Bieber’s record label, Island Def Jam records.
“yo youtube…how u gonna block my own song?!?!?!” wrote an outraged Bieber on his Twitter account. In another Twitter update, he wrote, “dear youtube…we started this journey and now u r cheatin on me with this vevo chica…i see how it is…i will be over here with facebook [sic].” (Vevo is the music video website responsible for Bieber’s official YouTube syndication, and is a joint venture between music giants Sony Music Entertainment, UMG and Abu Dhabi Media.)
In response, YouTube wrote back to Bieber on its Twitter account, “sorry about the upload pain around ‘Pray’. That’s between you and your label but we love you [both] so let’s figure this out!”
But the damage was done. Frustrated with the Google-owned video site, Bieber instead uploaded his video using Facebook’s video app onto his Facebook page. “no one keeps my music from my fans. nobody,” he wrote on Twitter.
There’s a level of irony to the situation. Bieber got his start on YouTube, where home videos of him on his account singing covers of hip-hop songs from artists Usher and Chris Brown attracted the attention of a talent scout in 2007. After a meteoric rise to fame, Bieber is one of the biggest YouTube stars today, the second to reach 1 billion views on the Google-owned video site, behind Lady Gaga.
You would think if anyone deserved to be able to upload his own music videos to YouTube, it would be Bieber. So why couldn’t he? The answer lies in the complicated legalities behind copyright law and new media. It comes down to the question: who owns the video? In Bieber’s case, the answer depends on who you ask.
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