When one records and uploads a video to YouTube, is that video now considered public domain? This is the question that researchers at University of Southern California, in Los Angeles where I’m from, are asking. The study they conducted was one-year in length, and was simply monitoring a group of people who would upload videos to youtube. The researchers analyzed how these videos were uploaded, (ex: were the identities of the creators of the video known, or was it a secret?) Also taken into account was how public a video was based off how many people accessed the video.
The main two classifications the researchers decided on after their year-long study was “publicly private” videos. [videos where the identities of those involved were known, but the videos were not widely accessed], versus “privately public” videos which were videos that were shared between a large number of users, but the identity of the video-makers were kept secret.
This study shows a clear division in online viral videos. For example, a popular video from the dawn of Youtube was a video called “Star Wars Kid” which was a video of a young highschool boy fighting with a pretend lightsaber. This video was leaked onto the internet by friends of the boy, however when the video was released online, no viewer knew who the boy was, nor that it was his friends who released the video without his permission. This would fall under the category of “privately public” videos since it quickly became one of the most watched videos on YouTube and the entire internet. In contrast, the “Crying Britney Spears fan” video was made by a boy named “Chris Crocker” and is one of the most watched videos on the internet. However, the difference between Star Wars Kid, and the Crying Britney Spears Fan video is that Chris Crocker published the video online under his own profile, revealing his identity, making his video originally publicaly private, however its now grown and has been accessed by a high volume of users.
What this study shows is that people are using social media sites like YouTube for a variety of purposes, both private and public, and balances must be made in order to prevent this media outlet from being misused (ala the case of Star Wars Kid).
The study can be found at