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Posted on 09.06.2011

AT&T and blink-182 Use Social Media to Reward Fans for Copyright Infringement

There is no doubt about it: the unlawful exchange of music has changed the face of the industry. Long gone are the days of free peer-to-peer sharing, but illegal downloading still continues today. Copyright infringement happens all the time too, especially on YouTube. Each day, users post homemade videos using someone else’s music in the background, only to have their videos later taken down. Type “blink-182” in YouTube’s search engine and you’ll find countless fan videos containing the band’s music. Copyright violation? You bet. YouTube discovers these copyright violations one of a few ways: when a user reports the copyright infringing video, a search engine picks one up during a regular content scan, or an inaudible watermark, placed inside music belonging to a recording label, uncover a song’s illicit use. The site removes many of the videos, but each day new ones appear faster than YouTube can find violations. For AT&T and blink-182, this lapse in content removal provided an opportunity for a two-way social media promotion. Instead of battling fans who use their music without permission, the west coast punk rock band decided to reward them. AT&T partnered with the band, hoping to appeal to their youthful audience, and used special software to comb Google’s video site for clips of fans using blink-182’s music without permission. The nationwide network provider then compiled the clips together in the video for Up All Night, blink-182’s first single in eight years (which, of course, you are encouraged to “like” using AT&T’s new HTC Status smartphone.) While the YouTube video mix of skateboarding, rockin’ jam sessions and laughing teens is likely to appeal to the band’s fan base, will AT&T’s broader audience feel the same about the provider portraying copyright infringement in a good light? And how do blink-182’s peers feel about the band promoting what most recording artists consider to be piracy or poaching? Let me know what you think.

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