With the volume of infringing material posted to YouTube, why hasn't it attracted a lawsuit? At the Hollywood Reporter, Esq., Fred Von Lohmann discusses YouTube's potential liability under copyright law:
Fortunately, YouTube has an important legal shield that was not available to the old Napster: the so-called "online service provider safe harbors" created by Congress as part of the DMCA. One provision, Section 512(c), was designed to protect commercial Web-hosting services, which feared they might be held responsible for the posting habits of their customers.
YouTube reminds me a lot of the original Napster in its heyday. Not so much because of the massive copyright infringement, but how it has made it easy for collectors and archivists to share media that is not widely distributed. With Napster P2P, there existed what seemed to be a critical mass of copies of rare live recordings and out of print or otherwise unavailable recordings that were interesting cultural artifacts.
Although with Napster, the rare and out of print material was traded next to the day's Top 40 material. Von Lohmann thinks that YouTube's limitations act as a filter that keep it as part of "clip culture," rather than the home of rampant piracy.
If not for YouTube, would it be this easy to watch the evolution of Mahna Mahna from Sesame Street:
to The Muppet Show:
to The Office (UK):
Is there a business for media that exists on the fringes of copyright? Do copyright owners care as much about these clips as the amateur uploaders? Should the copyright owners care?