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The (slightly hypocritical) adventures of the YouTube squirrel


Meet Russell. A squirrel with a mission...

Russell the YouTube squirrel apparently not a joke. It is an official YouTube video (which can still be embedded at the time of writing, though comments have wisely been disabled at the original location), uploaded by YouTube's own channel. Yes, it's been up since 24th of March, but it took The Register to bring it to my attention. I'm still staggered by it, so do have a watch while I go for the smelling salts. BRB...

I have already argued at greater length than I intend to here, and with far more evidence, that YouTube colludes with the marketing companies of movie studios and distributors to create highly popular and ostensibly 'naughty' video reposts of copyrighted material in order to effect the appearance of 'grass-roots' viral marketing to/by the companies' 18-24 target audience. Such as this Toy Story clip from 'Bullseyegurl', which has racked up an impressive 1,322,333+ hits, despite the proven presence of copyright algorithms on YouTube that impede other excerpts from that film from being uploaded and made available to the public.

I then went on to prove that a marketing company had been responsible for a similarly 'blessed' upload reaching a massive 1.5m hits for a 3-part 'HQ' video of Toy Story 2 (imitating pirate uploaders who upload entire movies in 10-15 minute chunks - though in this case, the 3-part 'HQ movie' was only the first 30 minutes of Toy Story 2)...

Toy Story 2 upload at YouTube, before it was 'taken down' by Disney

I say 'was'; going to the same post today got me this:

Video deleted

Aww noes! And what happened to the account of poor old RandomMiss95 (aka Madgirl Productions)...

MadGirl productions masquerading as a semi-literate teen girl

...who managed to post this series of HQ clips - by complete coincidence - on the very day that Toy Story 2 got a new disc release..?

Naughty RandomMiss95 bites the dust

YouTube account RandomMiss95 has been terminated because we received multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement from claimants including:

* Disney
* Disney
* Disney

Thrice damned! Bad luck, RandomMiss95. Who would have thought you could buck the general trend of YouTube's complete blocking of Toy Story-related uploads - and to the strength of 1.5m hits - only to finally be 'noticed' and caught?

Since this is the level of literacy that RandomMiss95 demonstrated in her original posting of the videos...

"Okay just kno you are awesome for viewing ma channel i hope u check out ma videoss you see i am a simple girl really i Luv RNB and i am gaga for lady gaga i luv beyonce wiv all ma heart she is awesome" can only imagine that the loss of her YouTube account has sent RandomMiss95 into a positive frenzy of ADD-stricken shoplifting, and almost certainly a drop in grades. Or perhaps she bucked her ideas up and started paying attention in class, since the language on display at MadGirl Productions (where RandomMiss95 'lives') is far more erudite:

"Mad Girl Productions is known for their extreme organizational skills, attention grabbing marketing tactics..."

A PR agency operating out of Burbank, CA, MadGirl productions seem, blessedly, to have managed to get on with their lives in spite of having their amazingly successful YouTube account cancelled.

Chalk one up to Russell the Squirrel.

Actually, more than one. Poor old YouTube user SenRabMas, who got an HD Spider-Man 3 clip to a record-breaking 618,000+ views despite a draconian climate of algorithm-blocking for uploaded clips from that movie on YouTube...has bitten the dust as well, along with his Spidey 3 clip...

Senrabmas no longer welcome at YouTube

But it seems that there's still work for Russell the Copyright Squirrel to clean up from the 'offenders' that I noted in the original post.

Let's return to BullsEyeGurl, who discovered the Joy Of Disney whilst recovering in hospital; she apparently loves Disney and Pixar equally, since her 8 clips from the likes of Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc. and Aladdin are not only still online since being mentioned in the other article, but have racked up more than 2m hits collectively. I guess BullsEyeGurl's uploads can part YouTube's Content ID filters like Moses cleaving the Red Sea. That, or she's about to get a visit from one angry squirrel.


After five years of dealing with entertainment PRs, and wondering why they talk about 'edginess' and 'viral marketing' so much (not forces that one imagines can easily be summoned up, controlled or guaranteed), looking into those 'blessed' pirate accounts of YouTube has clarified the matter considerably for me. Disney, and all their corporate colleagues, have their own YouTube channel through which to distribute video clips. But since the likes of Disney represents a gargantumegacorporation, there's no way such a hub can be 'cool' once The Mouse's core consumers hit puberty and get a little more pocket money to spend - that hinterland between power and the development of self-restraint which continues to be the 'zone' when consumers become most interesting to big business.

But when kids are in that mood (which in my experience lasts about five years), the likes of Disney become 'kids stuff' and 'mainstream' in the clique-loving eyes of these pined-for consumers. At that stage they want to explore - and even break - the rules. So what better way to gather them together for marketing than by imitating the kind of user-initiated acts of rebellion which they admire?

YouTube would be significantly hurt if it were to genuinely police copyrighted clips to the best of its ability and the limits of its technology. It knows that other services are waiting in the wings to accomodate what YouTube already has the power to utterly veto; and even if the economics of scale of its potential competitors mean that any alternatives are 'fly by night' affairs, such enterprises tend to respawn on demand.

So the antics of Russell the Copyright Squirrel, to me, show how much YouTube is a kingdom divided against itself, needing to set the official corporate seals which demonstrate responsibility, power and 'mainstream' respectability while striking various clandestine pacts with media giants in order to leverage the 'edgy'; pacts which lead to imitations of the very behaviour that this dreadful (and here I am guessing) Flash-generated rodent has been summoned up to counter.

I think it bugs me how much this particular hypocrisy is aimed at children - who admittedly should not be taught the worst of human nature, but who deserve a little more honesty, if not from the squirrel, then from the powers-that-be behind YouTube, who dishonour and insult the best thing about young minds by seeking both to manipulate them in this way and exploit them by turning their own curiosity against them in a cynical manner.

Also see:
YouTube and the major film studios
Why the web mustn't become the new TV


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#1 Go figure... Gabriel_Ruzin 2011-04-15 21:41
...a huge corporation in a mega-capitalistic society that proclaims its following of a series of ethical tenets, whilst gleefully breaking said tenets behind the scenes for wont of a faux-'underground' marketing campaign? Color me completely unsurprised.

The willingness of big business to lie compulsively and constantly just to make a few bucks or create false 'buzz' is unbelievable. Did the Toy Story franchise REALLY need help getting asses in the seats at the local multiplex? Uh, no. And yet somebody somewhere probably enlisted a couple tweens to help them craft utterly-false YouTube profiles, complete with half-retarded text-speak, to prod the preteens into harassing Mom and Dad until they got their trip to the theater.

That isn't new, of course. McDonald's rules the fast food market because they realized that instead of catering to adults, they would focus their marketing on the kids (Ronald McDonald, Happy Meals, etc.) who, after listening to hours of screeching children, would invariably cave in and take them to McD's to shut them up. Evidently, YouTube has just figured that particular tool out. And, despite their public assurances of abiding by the rules, they'll do whatever it takes in private to keep the money machine spinning.

Excuse me while I vomit.

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