Every day, nearly 100 million videos are viewed on the Web site youtube.com, making it a national phenomenon. YouTube allows users to upload videos to its Web site, which then may be searched for and viewed by other visitors. Seemingly overnight, users have uploaded everything from homemade comedies or stunts, to videos of “UFOs,” to parodies of popular entertainment, to highlights of last week’s ballgame. Users often own the copyright of, or utilize a license for, the videos they upload. Other videos, however, contain copyrighted content that its owners wish to protect and financially benefit from, by not allowing free, unauthorized copying and distribution. Although the large-scale communication on YouTube effectively spreads information, copyright owners believe it directly infringes their rights and poses a serious threat to their ability to secure financial rewards for legally protected content.

From YouTube’s perspective, taking steps to prevent the posting of potentially infringing content could destroy the business model and consumer goodwill upon which it relies. This information sharing/rights protection dilemma is not solely limited to YouTube — many Web sites and other service providers face decisions every day concerning the propriety of user-generated content.

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