Seesmic, the 'video conversation' service now includes threaded conversations in its embeddable player. When a person grabs the embed code of a Seesmic video for inclusion on another site, it automatically includes all the 'replies' to that video. You see those replies when you mouse over the lower area of the video. The only problem is that this new addition would appear to break its own terms of service. In the interests of caution I am not including a video here but can point readers to Loic LeMeur's site
During the video, LeMeur, CEO at Seesmic says: "You can embed the player anywhere you like, on MySpace, Facebook, Facebook?, like anywhere you can put an embeddable player."
In Seesmic's terms of service, it says: "You may not download, print, make commercial use of or otherwise use User-Generated Content that you do not own without prior written approval from the owner(s) of the User-Generated Content in question."
This has sparked a row between LeMeur and Kosso, the inventor of Phreadz. (currently in closed alpha) In direct message Twitter conversations, between the two, LeMeur alleged that Kosso had 'stolen' his content since he'd not asked LeMeur's permission to use his image and had downloaded the offending Seesmic video which he then re-uploaded to Phreadz. LeMeur demanded that it be taken down. I found out about it when the row spilled out into the public Twitter timeline.
I contacted LeMeur who said that using his image without permission is something about which he cares. "My content is mine," he said over a Skype conversation. He also said that while he has no problem with embedding, which keeps the user within the originating site, downloading and then effectively repurposing is something that Seesmic, along with YouTube and others forbid.
This morning (UK time), I contacted Kosso. He is adamant that Phreadz has not stolen anything but has used the Seesmic API to provide an embed of Seesmic videos to the Phreadz site. He added: "We also provide a direct link so that people can punch out directly to the Seesmic site if they so wish. As to the video issue that Loi raised, I deleted the one he is concerned about and all the threads that go with it." A more detailed explanation is available on this video, shot by Christian Payne this morning and recorded on Qik. (Warning, some of the language is not work safe.)
Regardless of this spat, including replies into the Seesmic embeddable player seems to create a similar problem of potential copyright infringement because of the words: "or otherwise use User-Generated Content that you do not own without prior written approval from the owner(s) of the User-Generated Content in question."
The row raises a fundamental question about the issue of 'sharing' in an open API world and 'ownership' where third parties are concerned. Kosso says that in the future, users will have the option to restrict re-distribution or offer a Creative Commons license. LeMeur says his company is "working on it." Over at TechCrunch, Erick Schonfeld picks up the issue albeit from a different angle:
If content was king in old media, conversation is king on the Web. That is why everybody wants to control the conversation. Video commenting startup Seesmic is no exception...
It is a pretty cool feature, but it creates a conflict with all the sites that have embedded Seesmic functionality, such as TechCrunch. We love it when people use Seesmic to comment on posts, and there is certainly something to say for threaded comments. Sometimes you want to respond to comment No. 15, but you are comment No. 74. But if these responses become swallowed within the Seesmic player itself, then it effectively gets taken out of the comment stream of that particular post. (Yes, the responses are still accessible, but people will really have to hunt for them).
Of course, comments have already left the building, so to speak. Many of the most interesting comments about a blog post may occur on Twitter or FriendFeed or some other service. Now Seesmic joins that trend.
Unsurprisingly, LeMeur thinks TechCrunch is wrong.
This kind of problem will not go away any time soon. If anything, the complexity of services now offered would seem to exacerbate a latent issue that will certainly bring problems for enterprises seeking to use these new media. Unlike consumers who blithely give away copyright, enterprise has to consider the risks of taking content. Seesmic doesn't have a business model but as and when it does, then it will need to think these issues through very carefully. Phreadz on the other hand does have a nascent business model. That's why they're looking at the licensing question early in their development.
Most recently I was asked to sign a release form for a video created by SAP's business process expert community. At the time I didn't think anything of it. Now I see why.