Google YouTube copyright infringement filtering system – How will it work?

Don Dodge raises a slew of interesting questions re: Google’s plan to install technology which will stop the posting of copyright-infringing material to YouTube and Google Video:

How will Google’s copyright filtering work? I haven’t seen it, but based on what I have read it works by creating a “digital fingerprint” of the original video or music, and comparing it to every file uploaded to YouTube. Presumably the system will be able to identify short clips of the music or video by comparing it to any match to the entire file.

Don’s totally correct here. Digital fingerprinting is the only way this will work.

What does this mean for music and video producers? It means they must submit to Google an original copy of every piece of content they own. They also must provide proof that they own the copyright. Then they need to trust Google to screen out any offending uploads. The copyright owners will still need to monitor YouTube to make sure the system is working…and serve Google with “take down” notices when it fails.

This system, unfortunately, delivers more power to major copyright holders than to content creators. It effectively creates a two-tier copyright system: those who have the time and money to “register” their copyright with Google – which basically means large publishers, TV shows and the like – and the rest of us, who can’t afford the time or money to do that.

How will users subvert the system? People who upload music and video are usually pretty tech savvy and take delight in beating any system. They will do the obvious things; change the name of the file, chunk it up into short clips, add characters, sound, or other video to confuse the system, stretch or wave the video to make it appear different, and a bunch or other tricks.

Indeed. There’s no chance at all that this system will actually work to a large degree.

What about “sampling” and “fair use”? The copyright law allow for “sampling” and “excerpts” under the “fair use” provisions. These laws are very imprecise and open to interpretation. No computer generated filter will be able to determine what is “fair use” and what is copyright infringement.

Which raises the question of whether there will be an “appeals” system moderated by human beings to deal with this issue. This could prove to be very expensive for Google.

What if the copyright filter system actually works? Will YouTube be interesting if there is no “good” content? How many videos of college kids drinking and dancing will you watch? Will the power users bother to upload music and video if they can’t put up the good stuff? Will YouTube viewers care about watching it?

It would certainly settle the issue of whether people use YouTube to get commercial content or not, for good. How strong is user-generated content?

Will advertisers be interested in a YouTube without great content? YouTube is very expensive to operate. The hosting costs, bandwidth, infrastructure, and people cost millions. Advertising is the only real source of revenue. Will advertisers be willing to pay for placement on YouTube?

My guess is “it depends” :)