updated 03:30 pm EST, Thu February 12, 2009
YouTube Paid Downloads
YouTube this afternoon said it would start testing purchasable downloads of videos from its website. The company has previously offered free downloads of videos from a handful of providers but is now experimenting with a system that would let companies put a price on permanent copies. While every payment would go through Google Checkout, video owners would have say over the prices and could have licenses varying from a strictly private-only license to Creative Commons rights for modification and sharing as well as a completely open public domain option.
The move would let viewers have access to significantly more videos when offline, particularly on portable devices without Internet access. Videos are usually encoded in H.264 and are often playable on iPods, Zunes and other devices that support the modern video format but lack 3G or Wi-Fi to get online.
YouTube is currently letting existing content partners sign up to qualify for the testing, but hasn't said how long the test will last.
YouTube's parent Google has previously tried a similar approach through Google Video but eventually gave up on the venture after YouTube's surging popularity and video copy protection made the option impractical. However, the company has been increasingly looking for ways to make the largely amateur-dominated YouTube profitable and has encouraged both more major-brand content as well as run tests of full-length movies that carry advertising.