Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

YouTube Says Popcorn Hour Is Over


Want to watch YouTube on your TV? There are plenty of devices and services that let you do that, with more on the way.

But starting next month, at least one gadget is getting its YouTube feed shut down. Syabas Technology, which makes a line of set-top boxes called “Popcorn Hour,” says Google’s (GOOG) video site has told it to remove YouTube content beginning December 2.

This one is a straight he said/he said: Syabas, via a blog post from COO Alex Limberis, says it has an agreement to use YouTube’s clips, but that YouTube had changed the terms of the agreement recently. YouTube won’t address that claim directly, but offered this statement:

Since July of 2008, YouTube’s Terms of Service has restricted implementations for televisions based on our APIs. YouTube has been in active discussions with various developers on how best to implement YouTube on set top boxes and TVs. There are several companies, however, that have deployed solutions, like video scraping technology, to circumvent the rules and violate YouTube’s Terms of Service.  Companies that have negotiated agreements to use our APIs, like TiVo, Sony, Panasonic and PS3 are not impacted.

The first-gut reaction here is to draw a parallel between this move and Hulu’s attempt to prevent video software start-up Boxee from using its stuff.

But in that case, at least, Hulu was trying to restrict access to a data stream it was making freely available to the rest of the world. Here, both sides agree that YouTube requires a contract before it will release its API to commercial partners.

So, the real question is: Did the two companies have an agreement, and what if, anything, has changed recently.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work