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YouTube’s Achilles Heel? Users Can’t Be Trusted to Self-Police



I just read an interesting MarketWatch piece on the issues Google faces with the policing of copyrighted content on YouTube. Because YouTube allows videos to be uploaded, without first being screened or approved, it’s very easy for a pulled clip to be replaced within minutes.

“It’s now a game of whack-a-mole,” said John Palfrey, a Harvard law school professor, and executive director of the school’s Berkman Center For Internet & Society.

I’m jealous that Palfrey was given the opportunity to provide MarketWatch with such a cool sound-bite, but it certainly sums-up the game YouTube is playing, perfectly. By relying on the community to flag inappropriate content and copyrighted material, YouTube is hoping to avoid the additional expense – that would surely cripple any profitability the company may have – that would come from having to screen videos before publishing them. While it’s a nice to think your viewers are noble enough to shop anyone uploading copyrighted content, it’s just not going to happen.

YouTubers enjoy watching copyrighted videos as much as old napster users enjoyed downloading copyrighted music. No one is going to say to themselves, “hmmm that’s a great episode of the Stephen Colbert Report, but I wonder if I should report it or not”. Nope, 99.9% of YouTube viewers are going to place the responsibility purely back on the shoulders of the management. If it’s there, it’s to be watched.

So, where does that leave YouTube? It leaves them playing level 999 of super whack-a-mole, where the moles are faster than they are and the stakes are higher than just the opportunity to win a free teddy-bear. YouTube needs to figure out a solution in a hurry – I’d help, but sadly none of the $1.65 billion made it my way – or else they are going to find themselves in the same situation as many of the old music download sites. Either (ceased and) deceased, or insisting users pay a monthly subscription fee, so they can keep the copyright lawyers off their backs.

  • http://www.youtube.com/onlyedandthealmost ed

    Copyright infringement is just the tip of the ethical iceberg at YouTube. With plans in the works to compensate content providers, the rampant view-gaming at the site will only get worse. Will the Tube fix it? Or are those literally unbelievable viewing stats (for utter crap) too juicy to expose them for the obvious fraud that they are? I am not optimistic.

  • http://youtube.com Steven

    Just this week my Kaspersky AV prompted me of a malicious program contained in a youtube posted video (), but worse yet youtube neither displays nor offers any immediately visible means to even report the issue to youtube.com.

  • ed

    Right, I’ve detected several viruses and other malicious entities residing on my own page and others’ there. Make sure your protection is up to date when browsing YouTube. Its popularity makes it the perfect place for this sort of activity.