David Kraftsow is the artist and programmer behind the Featured Online Artwork for Internet Week YooouuuTuuube, which has been making a splash since it first launched just a few months ago. The site allows users to tile YouTube videos frame-by-frame, with options to resize the frames and even display them as a spiral. I recently spoke with David at greater length about his project. - Ceci Moss
How did you come up with the idea for YooouuuTuuube?
I had wanted to create a program that uses YouTube videos as source material for a long time. At first I didn't really have a very specific idea of how I wanted it to work. It wasn't until I finally sat down and started coding little experiments and prototypes--in order to see what could be done from a technical standpoint--that a final project idea started to emerge.
Have you worked on projects like this before?
Yes, a lot of small things. I wrote a lot of prototype programs that read from YouTube and displayed videos in different ways. I had a bunch of video players including one that selected random videos of tornados and one that played a looping fullscreen video of the game MYST. I also created a more complex version that played lots of assorted videos at the same time in a dynamic grid layout with cross-fading sounds.
What are some of your favorite uses of YooouuuTuuube so far?
- The video where someone figured out how to write Japanese characters is pretty rad: http://yooouuutuuube.com/v/?rows=24&cols=960&id=GE2wQNfMcjk&startZoom=1&showVideo=1
- This Norman McLaren video: http://yooouuutuuube.com/v/?rows=5&cols=2880&id=qJwfeG3Mntk
- This "Alice" video which is by an Australian musician named Pogo has been, by far, the most popular configuration and works really nicely: http://www.yooouuutuuube.com/v/?rows=36&cols=36&id=pAwR6w2TgxY&startZoom=1
- Someone just sent this to me. It looks pretty sweet towards the middle: http://www.yooouuutuuube.com/v/?rows=36&cols=36&id=sl7U4R5qCrE&startZoom=1
And lots of others. Music videos work especially well but also really mundane handheld camera videos can occasionally be surprising. I like this random trainspotter vid for example: http://yooouuutuuube.com/v/?rows=6&cols=2880&id=1L3elPyvfN4&startZoom=1
I heard you recently received a cease and desist letter from Google - care to comment?
Well I was half expecting it so it wasn't a huge shock. The thing I find kind of funny is that it took them this long. The site had 1.5 million views before they sent me anything. It was getting like hundreds of thousands of visitors a day a few weeks ago. Now it's getting very few visitors and they want me to take it down. I want to say here that I like Google a lot and I think they are just making their best effort to protect their brand from a misperceived threat. I love my Android phone and my gmail account and I really really love YouTube! I mean absolutely no harm to the company with this project. If anything it's like more like a kind of love letter to them!
What was the basis of Google's argument?
They are claiming I am breaking the terms of service of their API and infringing on their trademark. However I am actually bypassing their API completely for the core functionality of the site. I only use the API for cosmetic features -- like displaying a title, username and description for each video, which I wanted to do out of fairness to YouTube's users. I have also provided links back to the original videos on YouTube in a good faith effort to drive traffic back to the source. The site will always remain non-commercial and does not seek to undermine, extort, or dilute the YouTube brand in any way.
Do you think the outcome of your encounter with Google will have an influence on the ability for others to create art projects/tools that allow users to manipulate and recontextualize YouTube videos?
I dunno. I believe/hope Google will stay true to their "don't be evil" motto. I am talking to friends of friends who are lawyers and have also tried to reach out to the EFF for advice as well. I certainly hope the outcome doesn't affect other projects. It would be a shame for Google to insist on draconian restrictions on the use of content that they themselves didn't even create.