YouTube’s content ID updates

Plagiarism Today has worthwhile commentary on the YouTube content ID update. Read it there.

What strikes me is the depth of the bureaucracy under construction at YouTube. That’s not to complain, because it seems reasonable – the complexity of the solution flows from the complexity of the problem.

There are three layers in their stack:

  1. There is a layer related to copyright infringement. This is about the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA and related law like the Grokster inducement decision. If Google is successful with this layer, it avoids getting sued.
  2. There is a layer for content ID. This identifies which works are embodied in uploaded videos, and maps them to works in recordings uploaded by copyright holder. If Google is successful with this layer it minimizes false positives (reporting matches that aren’t correct) and false negatives (failing to report matches that are correct). This is basically a science problem.
  3. There is a layer for content licensing. This strikes deals with copyright holders, sells ads, inserts ads, and pays the copyright holders.

Where is the user in this stack? Product. If users/uploaders are treated fairly and respectfully, it’s a win on the product management side.

The stack is a unified whole. Infringement and licensing are two facets of the same problem, content ID links them.

As Janko Roettgers explains the YouTube update:

Adding the DMCA to this set of tools could have two significant effects: It could help uploaders defend the use of third-party material when it is covered by fair-use exemptions – and it could help YouTube to convince more content owners to go down the path of monetization. After all, why chose the hard path when the easier one actually helps you to make money?

Coping with copyright law – the first layer – is a universal problem. I would be surprised if there is a single big Internet company that doesn’t get DMCA-based requests to take down content. But it’s joined tightly with monetization and licensing. YouTube is blazing the trail but won’t be the only one to go down it. You can assume that Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, eBay, etc are all growing their own versions of the stack, each one with its own complexity.