Copyrights and copywrongs on YouTube

Even inthe digital world, standards are still necessary and some old rules deserve respect. Creators should still be fairly compensated for their work, and we shouldn't tolerate stealing as the road to profit. And, as much as we love YouTube, we shouldn't countenance the way its founders muscled their way to riches by enabling the online trafficking of stolen videos.

From garage entrepreneurs to mega-millionaires sounds like the quintessential American success story, except that e-mails released recently by a federal judge plainly show that YouTube's magic elixir was theft, not creativity.

Consider the "business strategy" discussions in which the YouTube co-founders, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, concede that drew the original traffic to their website largely through offering stolen property which, they well knew, radically inflated the value of their site before they flipped it to Google for $1.65 billion.

As Chen wrote in one e-mail: "if you remove the potential copyright infringements "... site traffic and virality will drop to maybe 20 percent of what it is."

In a discussion with co-founder Hurley about competing for content with a rival website, Chen advised: "steal it." And when Hurley demurred, Chen responded: "We have to keep in mind that we need to attract traffic. How much traffic will we get from personal videos? Remember, the only reason why our traffic surged was due to a video of this type [stolen] "...