Who's Deflating Led Zeppelin's YouTube Clips?

Portfolio has a nice piece about the inevitable fallout from Led Zeppelin’s reunion show in London yesterday. Everyone’s gushing about the show, and fans are of course flooding YouTube with clips. And Google’s (GOOG) video site, of course, is taking them down.

But why? Portfolio notes that YouTube’s red “takedown boxes” cite copyright claims from Warner Music Group (WMG), which makes a bit of sense, since the company owns the publishing rights to Zep’s catalogue. And the YouTube clips violate WMG’s copyright — technically speaking…

But WMG has been bending over backwards to prove that it’s ready for the digital future — in fact, it was the first major label to work a deal with YouTube (a deal which earned the company an equity stake prior to the Google buyout). More practically, since it’s not generating any money from the concert itself, it has little incentive to quash the YouTube clips.

We don’t have an official response from WMG yet, but our preliminary inquiries give us the sense that the company didn’t make a concerted effort to take down the clips. So what happened?

One possibility: An overzealous employee filed the complaints, but not at the behest of senior management. Another possibility: Someone else did, and YouTube mistakenly cited Warner. Lots players could lay claim to footage from the show: The band itself, via its management; the owners of the 02 Arena where the concert was held; the concert’s promoters, etc. If we get any updates, we’ll let you know.

In the meantime, the semi-mystery is actually a good proxy for the headaches involved in digital copyright issues: Someone’s making music go away, but we’re not exactly sure who’s doing it — or why.

Update: A person familiar with the situation tells us that WMG didn’t order the takedowns, and suggests it was likely someone from the band’s management. New fall guy: A Brooklyn-based “bootbusting” company says it’s their fault. More details here.

Followup: Still plenty of Zep available on YouTube

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