Heavy.com and the dangers of social network investing

Wednesday’s Tri-State Tech Wire newsletter had an article about Heavy.com raising $12.8 million in its fifth round of venture capital. Over on Don’t’ Go South, they claim the number is $12.3 million and question the wisdom of the business model. “Working your ass off to run a content portal that does $10M in ad revenue and costs $11M to operate is not exactly the golden ticket to paradise.”

Yet there is a bigger problem for Heavy.com. Over on a mailing list of videobloggers, Casey McKinnon, Executive Producer of Galacticast writes, “We found out today that MyHeavy.com has been re-posting our videos with a huge pre-roll banner ad and a second huge ad surrounding the video when it plays (all without our permission or knowledge).”

A quick check of DNS records confirm that heavy.com and myheavy.com are both registered to heavy.com.

Videobloggers can be a rough and tumble group. Generally speaking, they want people to see their videos and make them available with less restrictive copyrights than the old media does. Yet they do not give away their copyrighted material willy-nilly. Typically, they use a Creative Commons copyright license that allows for boarder distribution of creative works, without completely giving up rights to the work.

In the case of Galacticast, they clearly state on their website that the materials are “This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.”

Yup. Right there. NonCommercial. I think that rules out Heavy.com’s use. By the sounds of it, there isn’t attribution either.

Now, I must admit, I haven’t done the full journalistic checking of sources. I’m a blogger, I write first, and check my sources afterwards. However, I’ll send off an email to Galacticast and to Heavy to see what they have to say. Who knows, maybe I’ll even contact some of Heavy’s investors.

Now, in the old world, if a media producer had their materials taken in what they considered an illegal manner, they would immediately contact their lawyers. There would be cease-and-desist letters, and probably the only people that make any money off of it would be the lawyers. That is, of course, if you were a large media producer. The smaller ones who couldn’t afford lawyers would just need to take the lumps.

I don’t know Galacticast’s finances, but if they are like so many other videobloggers I know, they are trying to save up to get a new camera, and spending the money on legal fees just isn’t worth it. This is where another side of videoblogging comes in.

You see, it isn’t just that people can make good videos and distribute them online much less expensively that is driving videoblogging. It is the community that develops around their online social networks that help videos get noticed. That community also springs to the defense of video producers they like.

Over on the videoblogging mailing list, another member writes, “I think we should start leaving messages about how these pirates are getting their content, right where their investors will learn about it.” Sure enough. If you go back to the Don’t’ Go South entry, there are four comments, all of them about Heavy’s method of getting content. Will this get back to the investors? Will it be more effective than traditional legal methods of protecting copyrights? It will be interesting to see.

While it plays out, investors may want to pay closer attention to the role of online social networks and the way they can affect the goodwill, or lack there of, that companies have.