YouTube is cracking down on videos with copyrighted material, specifically music. Word is spreading fast around the YouTube community that many videos have now been muted with the following disclaimer underneath the screen:

This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by all copyright holders. The audio has been disabled

Here's an example of just one video silenced by the new policy.

YouTube gets 20 million unique visitors a month. Look for that number to plummet if this nonsense persists.

Already fans are flaming the comments sections of videos with censored audio.

In the past, when there have been complaints from copyright holders, YouTube has given video contributors two options; take the video down or use their "audioswap" tool to strip out the copyrighted music and replace it with some canned, copyright-free dreck.

In a posting on their official blog this week, the YouTube team justified the new muting option as a good thing; spinning it as a third choice and thus giving amateur producers more options.

I'm guessing YouTube has its hands tied by the evil record companies who just aren't making enough money these days.

What does this mean for entrepreneurs and smaller businesses using YouTube as a marketing tool?

1. Save yourself a headache and double check your videos for copyrighted material. Fair or not, this is a battle you're not going to win.

2. Today they are muting audio tracks. Expect copyrighted stock photos, movie clips, the voices of celebritites, television clips, logos, etc. to be next.

3. Rule of thumb; make sure your videos are all original content; the music, the images, the graphics, all of it. Then copyright it, so that you don't get ripped off by someone else.

Prediction: YouTube is wildly successful because it has scrillions of home-brewed videos that more often than not use some well known images and/or sound and puts a fun spin on it. Increasingly, the business community is starting to turn to YouTube for guerrella marketing possibilities.

With this crackdown on copyrighted material, I suspect there will be fewer videos of guys dancing on treadmills in the future and more how-to's, sales pitches and seminar clips, etc.

Published on: Jan 16, 2009