Category: Law

Improving YouTube’s Content ID could help creators of all stripes

Why not make Content ID more accessible and transparent?

Much has been written about YouTube’s Content ID program, a fingerprinting technology that allows rights holders to find and claim their music or movies when uploaded to YouTube.  The technology was introduced in 2008 in the wake of Viacom’s lawsuit against YouTube and since then has helped (some) creators mitigate the problem of piracy on the popular UGC (user-generated content) site.

Those who have access to the Content ID system can uploaded reference files and use a dashboard to choose how matches should be handled.  They can be limited based on audio, video, and length.  Matching content then can be blocked, removed, or monetized based on territorial rights.

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YouTube’s Content ID Easily Fooled

Doing the job, but not a very good job

When people talk about effective ways to mitigate the impact of online piracy, YouTube’s Content ID is often used as an example of what works. Unfortunately, despite its role as poster boy for anti-piracy tech, in reality it falls flat as a gatekeeper against online piracy.

Aside from a labyrinth-like user interface that seems likely to have been designed–not to help– but to discourage rights holders from using Content ID, the actual fingerprinting technology behind it can be easily fooled.

YouTube introduced the Content ID system in 2007.  At the time, the company was facing pressure from a Viacom lawsuit, among others.  According to YouTube, it’s pretty straightforward:

Videos uploaded to YouTube are scanned against a database of files that have been submitted to us by content owners. Copyright owners get to decide what happens when content in a video on YouTube matches a work they own. When this happens, the video gets a Content ID claim.

Looking to make money off work they don’t own, clever YouTube users have discovered ways to fool the technology so their illegal uploads of copyrighted movies and music don’t get flagged, blocked or removed.

I began noticing this phenomenon more lately as I’ve begun to find full, infringing copies of films uploaded that matched content owned by a film distributor I work for.  This seems to be happening more often and I was curious as to how these pirated copies had avoided detected by Content ID.  When I looked closely I saw that subtle manipulations in brightness had taken place along with slight adjustments to frame size and sometimes the crop of the frame.

When I started poking around YouTube to find other examples of these uploads they were easy to find. It only took me a few minutes to find dozens of copies of a variety of full copyrighted movies, old and new. One title I came across was the 2015 release, Everest.  Below are screen captures from two different full uploads of the movie I found streaming on YouTube.

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Update to Digital Millennium Copyright Act Long Overdue

Momentum is building for changes to the DMCA that will better protect creators

Content creators from all walks of life are coalescing around the need to update copyright law to protect their work against theft in digital age.  A piece in yesterday’s NY Times,  Music World Bands Together Against YouTube, Seeking Change to Lawis the latest to highlight growing calls by the creative community to update a woefully antiquated Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

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More Google DMCA misdirection…refusing takedown requests for Blogger sites with custom domains

Hop aboard for another spin on Google’s DMCA Merry-Go-Round

It’s not news that Google-hosted Blogger websites are a favorite storefront for online pirates.  It’s also not news that Google does its best to obstruct DMCA takedowns by setting up various roadblocks along the way.  Today I discovered yet another example of just how difficult Google makes the DMCA process–this time with Blogger-hosted sites that use custom domain names.

When you create a blog using Blogger you’re given a domain that ends in blogspot.com. However users are free to use a custom domain name instead.  That’s all well and good, unless the website distributes pirated content.  In that case, if you’re a creator trying to get your pirated content removed (by Google), you’re likely to run into problems.

Usually, when one of these pirate entrepreneurs creates a site on blogspot.com a rightsholder can send a DMCA by using Google’s annoying web form (or annoy them by sending an email: dmca-agent@google.com).  However, if you use the same DMCA form to report a blogger-hosted site with a custom domain, Google won’t remove it.  They’ll just send you back to the beginning.

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A flawed study on the DMCA – Peeling back the layers of the onion

Berkeley Law’s dubious study on copyright notice and takedown faces more scrutiny

Last month–a day before deadline for public comments on the U.S. Copyright Office’s study on the impact and effectiveness of the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), section 512–UC-Berkeley School of Law and the American Assembly (via the Google-funded Takedown Project) released a study purporting to give a “broad picture of how section 512 notice and takedown works on the ground.”

A day after its release I wrote quick post highlighting some initial concerns with the study, but hadn’t had time to fully digest the entire 160 page report.  Now, nearly a month later, others have taken the time to more carefully look at the study and uncover its (many) dubious findings.  Kevin Madigan & Devlin Hartline  scholars at the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property (CPIP) have published a detailed response to study, “Separating Fact from Fiction in the Notice and Takedown Debate,” and note:

The study reads more like propaganda than robust empiricism. It should be taken for what it is: A policy piece masquerading as an independent study.

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