Video-sharing websites like YouTube and Vimeo have made the distribution of video and musical content available to the masses. These sites offer considerable opportunities for independent artists looking for a venue for their work and help foster discussion about various topics. However, the benefits these services bring are contrasted by potential abuses and other negative consequences of utilizing them.
Pro: Venue for Artists
YouTube, Vimeo, LiveVideo and other video-sharing websites provide a free venue for independent artists to showcase their talents. Not only can artists reach audiences previously unavailable, they can also establish their own independent brands and turn their passion into a business. Artists can even break into the mainstream as a result of their independent videos -- singer Justin Bieber was discovered in YouTube videos, as was comedian and songwriter Bo Burnham and many others. Other popular YouTube brands like the comedy series "Epic Rap Battles of History" and the animation of Harry Partridge and enjoy strong viewership despite being wholly independent productions.
Video-sharing websites also enable others to infringe on the copyrights of established artists. By posting videos of copyrighted material, virtually anonymous users can share material to which they have no rights and potentially damage an artist's reputation or revenue. With specialized browser add-ons and plug-ins, users can even directly download content from YouTube to their computers, further enabling piracy. While these sites profess a zero-tolerance policy towards copyright infringement, copyright holders must file a complaint against the content and pirates can still create additional accounts and post the content up again.
Video-sharing websites also have the ability to promote lively debate and discussion on any number of topics. Topics ranging from politics to religion to philosophy are all the subject of discussion, and many videos often contain passionate debates within the comments sections, both serious and trivial. Video-sharing sites can also be used to rally like-minded individuals around a particular cause and generate attention for the issue at hand.
Con: Privacy Issues
Video-sharing websites can be abused by those invading the privacy of others. Not everyone is eager to become an unwitting YouTube sensation because of an embarrassing video shot by another, but with a population increasingly armed with video cameras at all times, it becomes more of an issue. In most instances on broadcast television, images and names can't be used without consent, but YouTube videos have no such restriction. As such, anyone passing by with a camera during an embarrassing moment can easily humiliate you with relative impunity, without you even being aware that you're the star of their video.
Pro: Citizen Journalism
The rise of video-sharing has also led to another development: the rise of citizen journalism. With an increasing number of smartphones and other devices capable of recording video, the ability to document events as they unfold has grown exponentially. Hundreds of videos of a single event from a multitude of angles can create an unfiltered and multifaceted view of that event. This can reveal a side to a story that may be omitted from standard news media coverage, or it may simply help flesh out the details. However, these recordings may not come with any context, making their content difficult to judge with any clarity.
Con: Unforeseen Consequences
The Internet has a long memory, with many websites and services archiving material everyday. Videos you post can come back to haunt you in many ways -- for instance, if you're underage and recorded video of yourself enjoying alcoholic beverages at an unsupervised party, you've basically created evidence against yourself for use by both your parents and the authorities. Even videos from years earlier can be devastating later in life -- a prospective employer may be hesitant to hire someone who's posted videos espousing certain viewpoints or engaging in clearly illegal or ill-advised behavior. Consider what you're sharing very carefully before you click "Post" -- there's no telling who might be watching it in the future.
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