While Roku doesn’t offer an officially sanctioned YouTube channel, many of us have been enjoying that content through a “private” offering created by The Nowhereman. In fact, he’s such an exceptional developer, Roku brought him on as an employee (where he’s known as Chris). Yet that puts them in an even more awkward position now that Google has taken issue with the unlicensed YouTube channel.
A blog comment tipped me off to the situation, that I confirmed on the forum… The YouTube channel remains functional for the folks who’ve previously activated it, yet no new subscribers are permitted. I reached out to Roku who also corroborated the situation, saying “we received a takedown notice from YouTube’s legal team and are in the midst of negotiations with them.” They’re hopeful of having more information to share with the community next week.
I can’t say this comes as any surprise. Some of the best channels and content provided through the Roku media streamer exist without their owners knowledge or consent. Having moved over a million units and entered the brick & mortar retail space, Roku’s customer base exceeds the geeky and industry crowd these days. Meaning, many are blissfully unaware of content licensing complexities and Roku’s tacit endorsement of repurposing web video without a deal. Which has led to some interesting conversations on the company-run discussion board. For example, one member wondered how he might record Roku content and was scolded by the forum police:
you can’t legally record streaming content from the box. Roku’s forum isn’t the appropriate place to discuss illegal methods.
An excerpt of my reply:
That’s a pretty broad generalization and there are a variety of digital media scenarios that haven’t yet been legally tested. Incidentally, I’ve uploaded a number of videos to YouTube… which you can view through Roku’s non-sanctioned YouTube app. Yet no advertising revenue can be generated for me via that method. So who’s swiping whose content at that point?
Additionally, some interesting assumptions:
The stuff you’re referring to [NCAA, HGTV, CNN] is made available for free via the web- the channels you’re questioning are just passing it thru to the Roku, presented identically as they were on the web. There’s no “stealing” going on if it’s already free to all all to stream.
And my counter:
I didn’t claim it was stealing. However, it is subverting the content from its intended purpose and I’m willing to bet many of those providers have language which prohibits that. And online content is rarely free for all to stream – there’s advertising material that surrounds the video, whatever metrics they choose to run, regional restrictions, etc. Roku may be too small or these providers may not care.
On an intellectual level, it’s all quite fascinating. But, as a customer, it’s more likely quite frustrating. The bottom line here… If YouTube is on your must-have list, buy a WDTV, Apple TV, or TiVo.