It’s no secret that video sites like YouTube benefited from added traffic generated by hosting copyrighted content. But as these sites get acquired, integrate advertising, or just want to avoid a billion dollar lawsuit, they seek to shed their seedy past to stay kosher with the big media giants they hope will feed them content and advertising dollars.
There are a lot of startups offering technological means of keeping their noses clean. Most of the solutions function as digital detectives, comparing the video fingerprints of copyrighted content with uploaded content for a match. Some of these companies include Audible Magic, Advestigo, Gracenote, MotionDSP, Philips, and iPharo. YouTube has implemented Audible Magic, although I haven’t noticed a difference. MySpace also incorporated Audible Magic but took the added step of banning re-uploading content violating copyright (“Take Down Stay Down” initiative).
However, while computers are great for solving well defined problems at a dizzying pace, they don’t always do that well when the rules become murkier. Judgments need to be made about whether playing a song or video constitutes “fair use” and simply changing a few characters of the title can fool more basic filters. That’s why 5-year-old BayTSP has decided to keep humans in the loop. The WSJ takes an in depth look at the company.
The Journal reports that BayTSP has hired more than 20 “Video Analysts” to watch videos and report copyrighted content starting at $11 an hour. Their searches are helped by BayTSP’s software, which most likely gives them a head start on what to look for. The company’s most notable client is Viacom, which it supplied with the data for their 100,000 video DMCA takedown request last year. Viacom says it pays BayTSP more than $100,000 each month for the service. The takedown requests have resulted in over 230,000 clips being removed from YouTube for Viacom. BayTSP says its error rate on Web videos is only around 0.1%.
Despite these efforts, video piracy remains rampant both on Google video search and many other social video sites. Once content is taken down, some users simply re-upload them to the site. MySpace is apparently countering this behavior through a file blacklist, but other video providers are certainly concerned with pushing away potentially valuable content and users. Content providers have continually leaned on the heavily manual DMCA safe harbor clause, while copyright holders clamor for embedded filtering. Google has recieved a long list of take down notices. AT&T has expressed an interest in filtering their network directly.
One thing’s for sure, there’s still a lot more debate needed amongst us humans before the computers chime in.