12 December 2011

The real villains of YouTube are the multinational companies cashing in on public domain footage they claim is their own

The real villains of YouTube are the multinational companies cashing in on public domain footage they claim is their own

When you hear about "piracy" in connection to YouTube, perhaps you think of the billion-dollar lawsuit brought by Viacom against the Google division, claiming that Google should have the duty to police all of its users' uploads to determine that they don't infringe copyright.

Google does something very close to this already, of course: the company offers a service to rights holders called "ContentID" that is meant to automatically police copyrights on their behalf. Rights holders upload copies of their copyrighted works to YouTube and identify themselves as the proprietors of those works, and YouTube scours its files for videos or audio that appear to be connected with those copyrights.

Rights holders get to decide what happens next: they can ask Google to automatically remove matching files (Google then notifies the user that her files generated a copyright match and offers them the opportunity to contest it), or they can "monetise" the video by asking Google to display ads whenever it is played back. The revenue from these ads goes to the rights holders.

ContentID does a lot more than US copyright law requires of rights holders. Under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, services like YouTube enjoy a "safe harbour", that shields them from liability for copyright infringement. In order to maintain this safe harbour, YouTube must "expeditiously" respond to notices of copyright infringement by removing the offending works. But the law does not require YouTube to proactively search for infringements and remove them. Running ContentID isn't a legal duty, it's an olive branch extended by YouTube to the audiovisual industries.

Read it at The Guardian

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