"Everyone has a cell phone camera, videotaping what's going on. Everyone's a news reporter going out and saying what's happening in the world," O'Denat said. "Times have changed from twenty to thirty years ago. Most people don't understand this is what's going on outside."
Granick said, "I'm not sure why it's controversial. There's stuff on news sites all the time when investigations or reports about something happen and then police investigate and someone gets charged."
Police departments agree, at least in part. Christine O'Brien, spokeswoman of the Philadelphia Police Department, said World Star and similar sites have helped detectives zero in on suspects quickly just from watching the videos. They solved one such crime in early January, when a man was jumped, beaten and robbed while waiting for a subway. The incident was uploaded to World Star Hip Hop, and detectives made an arrest in the case four days later.
"After we got this got tip [about the World Star video], we found the video and were able to gather information from it," O'Brien said. "At that point, we made decision to make sure investigators were made aware of this website, to go on and look for incidences. You don't realize how many people follow YouTube and the videos. It's a great tool in solving a lot of these crimes."
A Florida sheriff's department agreed, saying that they were able to arrest a father heard cheering on his fighting son in a World Star video, by watching the video and identifying witnesses in it.
"As far as law enforcement, it makes our job a whole lot easier," said Debbie Carter, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough Sheriff's Department. "Once it's on a public website and it becomes public record, anyone can download it, so that can be then used in evidence."
O'Brien and Carter said they now have specially trained staff that monitors videos such as these.
Granick and O'Denat also compare the site to reality TV, including the "Jerry Springer Show."
"People love to hate World Star," Granick said. "People are amazed at the vagaries of other humans on this planet. It's similar to people wanting to watch Jerry Springer. The audience that likes those kind of shows has similar sensibility for World Star. They're the people who watch 'Jersey Shore,' the Kardashians, and Jerry Springer."
"People love to see raw and uncut videos, news, shock videos, like reality TV. People love to see that. It's real, unscripted, unrehearsed," he said. "They all love what we pick. We're like DJ-ing the whole world."
Ferrell agrees, noting that the website is just part of a violence-saturated media culture, which results in kids growing up thinking that fights are an acceptable form of entertainment. While crime has actually gone down in the past 15 years, the media's widespread portrayal of it makes it seem like it's more pervasive, he said.
"It's not to suggest kids shouldn't shoot videos," he said. "In a world of 'CSI' and violent video games and Hollywood slasher movies, it's a lot to ask of kids not to imagine filming fights when their media world is pervaded by violence. It's not about morality, but about production values. 'CSI 'is showing the same thing but with better camera angles and better editing. It's absurd to ask kids not to focus on violence when the rest of the media is."
The website certainly has found an audience. Alexa, a Web analytics company, ranks the site 266th in site traffic in the United States, ahead of culture websites like MTV.com and PerezHilton.com. For O'Denat, that translates to significant income.
"Think how much we've made violence and entertainment into a commodity," Ferrell says. "Before we condemn this and say how outrageous it is, we have to be careful not to see violence in their lives without seeing it in our own."
O'Denat, an innovative entrepreneur who has always been ahead of the business curve, knows a good commodity when he sees it. In the future, he hopes to create a media empire, including original programming, shows and signed artists with the same World Star sensibility.