Viral Video

A viral video is one that becomes popular through the process of Internet sharing, typically through video sharing websites, social media and email. Viral videos often contain humorous content and include televised comedy sketches, such as The Lonely Island’s ‘Lazy Sunday’ and ‘Dick in a Box,’ amateur video clips like ‘Star Wars Kid,’ the ‘Numa Numa’ videos, ‘The Evolution of Dance,’ and ‘Chocolate Rain,’ and web-only productions such as ‘I Got a Crush… on Obama.’ Some eyewitness events have also been caught on video and have ‘gone viral’ such as the ‘Battle at Kruger.’

The proliferation of camera phones and inexpensive video editing and publishing tools credited with fueling phenomena. These consumer-shot videos are typically non-commercial, intended for viewing by friends or family. A video becoming viral is often unexpected, and an accident, and therefore a video cannot be called viral purely in the creator’s intention at the time of recording.

Viral videos began circulating before the major video sharing sites such as YouTube, Funny or Die and CollegeHumor, by e-mail sharing, although the term ‘viral video’ was not coined until 2009 with the clip ‘David after Dentist.’ One of these early videos was ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ which surfaced in 1995 and gave rise to ‘South Park.’ In 1996 ‘Dancing Baby’ appeared. This video was released as samples of 3D character animation software. Ron Lussier, the animator who cleaned up the raw animation, began passing the video around LucasArts, his workplace at the time. A particularly well-known early example was ‘All your base are belong to us,’ based on a poorly-translated video game, which was first distributed as a GIF animation and became popular in 2000.

Viral videos that do not feature original content often violate copyright laws. Users frequently upload television, movie and music clips onto popular viral websites like YouTube. The use of copyrighted material has caused several problems in the entertainment industry. The most notable incident occurred following the release of ‘Lazy Sunday,’ the popular digital short that appeared on NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live.’ Within hours fans posted the video onto YouTube, where it received a substantial number of hits. NBC then released an order to remove all reproductions, claiming that the postings constituted copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

As viral videos have increased in popularity, the entertainment industry has begun researching ways to profit from the phenomenon. Recently a couple posted a video of their wedding procession to Chris Brown’s song ‘Forever,’ on YouTube. Sony, which owns the copyright to the song, was able to capitalize on the success of the video by offering a one-click buying option, which allows users to purchase the song by clicking on a black bar that appears during the video.

YouTube became a powerful source of campaigning for the 2008 Presidential Election. Every major party candidate had their own YouTube channel in order to communicate with the voters, with John McCain posting over 300 videos and Barack Obama posting over 1,800 videos. The music video, ‘Yes We Can,’ by will.i.am demonstrates user-generated publicity for the 2008 Presidential Campaign. The proliferation of viral videos in the 2008 campaign highlights the fact that people increasingly turn to the internet to receive their news.

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