Ah, YouTube we hardly knew ye. The video upload site grew rapidly into a site big and bad enough to make Google sit up and take notice to the tune of a $1.65 billion buyout last month, largely because YouTube kind of overlooked the whole issue of who actually owned the stuff people were uploading to their site. Hence, users would upload the funniest bits from shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report -- the kind of stuff people actually want to watch -- in addition to the plethora of videos like that fascinating footage of ripping off a nasty fungal-infected toenail, or a banana spider munching a grub (okay, that one was actually kinda cool). Now that Google and its deep pockets are in the game, though, the rules are changing.
Boing Boing reported last week that Comedy Central has requested that YouTube take down all Comedy Central-owned content, including clips from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and South Park. At the moment, it doesn't appear that YouTube is enforcing this terribly well (or perhaps it's just taking them awhile to catch up with the mountain of Comedy Central stuff on the site), because I found a ton of Daily Show clips still going strong. Boing Boing notes that in an interview with Wired, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart pretty much encouraged viewers to get content from the internet, saying, "I look at systems like the Internet as a convenience. I look at it as the same as cable or anything else. Everything is geared toward more individualized consumption. Getting it off the Internet is no different than getting it off TV." Apparently Stewart's hard-ass bosses around Comedy Central disagree, at least now that YouTube is owned by Google. Comedy Central shows clips on their own sites, but as a commenter on the Boing Boing piece noted, the quality there isn't great.

I can see Comedy Central's point on the copyright issue, but on the other hand, YouTube has probably done more to give Comedy Central free marketing of their shows than any other internet site. I'd stopped watching The Daily Show for a while, just because of time constraints, but then I kept having friends direct me to hilarious clips on YouTube, and after awhile I felt like I was missing out on so much fun stuff that I became a regular Daily Show user again -- now I'm back up to my two-to-three night a week Jon Stewart habit -- and sometimes I even stick around for a chaser of The Colbert Report.

All this makes me wonder what the broader impact of Google purchasing YouTube will be. There's so much potential for studios to promote their films through sites like YouTube, but piracy and copyright concerns are huge hurdles to get past. You'll always be able to get your videos of various people trying to be the next zefrank, but your days of finding sneaky footage of films in production are numbered now that YouTube has evolved from interesting anomaly to corporate site with big, deep pockets.

What do you think, readers? The concept behind YouTube was "broadcast yourself, " but could studios use sites like YouTube as marketing portals to better promote certain types of films? I can't see really promoting, say, Babel on there, but the YouTube stuff on Borat is pretty popular. YouTube seems to be a great place for promoting a comic film like Borat that needs a wider awareness to really draw the big box office -- but how long will it be before all the cool Borat stuff is replaced with: "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation."