Is Google’s YouTube Antipiracy Tool Enough?

    October 16, 2007

Google has finally unveiled their copyright protection system for YouTube. The reactions have been mixed.

imageWhile the system appears to be effective, it requires copyright holders to provide Google with full copies of any video they want policed.

The automated YouTube video ID system looks at all video as it is uploaded and tries to match it with a database of visual abstractions of the copyrighted material that has been provided by content owners. If the system finds a match it will either block it, post it, or–depending upon the policy specified by the content owner–put ads on it, with the revenue being shared with the content owner.

You have to give Google credit for including the option to not delete the offending video, but instead monetize it for the copyright holder. That’s a smart way to at least try and maintain some of the revenue that YouTube will surely lose, with the reduction in SNL and Stephen Colbert clips.

Still, there are two concerns about the new system.

  1. The copyright holder must provide Google with a complete library of videos they want policed. Copyright holders are going to find this somewhat inconvenient–especially if other video sites adopt this policy. Can you imagine having to provide hours of video to all of the different video services?
  2. If a copyrighted video is uploaded, it may still publish on YouTube–albeit for just a few minutes–before being pulled down. You’d think Google would know better than most. Once any content hits the web, it’s there, forever! YouTube may pull the offending clip, but that doesn’t stop pirates from snagging it first. How hard would it be to write a program that sniffs for new videos that are titled “Stephen Colbert” and download them the moment they’re uploaded??

As well as these two concerns, there are other questions being asked.

  1. The system doesn’t handle poor quality video too well. Could pirates start uploading images with deliberately lower bit rates? Low quality might be better than not getting it approved at all.
  2. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is worried that video clips that contain “fair use” extracts of copyright content might get banned too.

No one said that this stuff was going to be easy. I have my doubts that this first iteration from YouTube is going to be perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. And with a $1B+ copyright lawsuit hanging over their head, Google needed to take the step quickly.

PS. A new Google definition for you. “Very Soon” apparently means 8 months at the Googleplex. ;-)