Misconceptions about DRM

When I first talked to friends and family about my job, I got a lot of mixed reactions. Some suddenly became incredibly excited, asking me tons of questions about YouTube celebrities, interesting channels, and more. Others were relieved, happy to hear I had at least found employment (I’m still doing fine, Mom). However, for the vast majority of people, the very first reaction was disdain, even scorn. “Oh, so you’re the guys who take down all the funny videos?”

Almost everyone who has used YouTube has experienced seeing a video that was later pulled due to copyright infringement. Some of these videos were incredibly popular, with a few garnering millions of views before being reported. These video takedowns have left a sour taste for many users, evoking images of the corporate man smacking his lips and rubbing his hands with an evil grin, existing only to be a nuisance to the rest of the population.

To be fair, I used to be in that same boat. I, too, would groan in irritation at seeing the YouTube frowny face popup instead of the video I was excited to see. And I, like so many others, blamed YouTube and the many corporations it works with for taking away content just to make a quick buck.

And then I saw the other side.

First and foremost – what most people don’t realize is that videos which violate copyright law on YouTube are not required to be taken down. Rather, YouTube allows the owner of the copyright to claim their ownership but keep the video up, meaning the video is still on the site, but the original copyright owners get compensated instead of the copyright violators. The video can still be taken down, of course, but the decision to do so rests with the copyright owner, not YouTube.

Secondly, YouTube always runs the risk of liabilities and lawsuits for hosting copyright infringing material. People can complain about their favorite videos being taken down, but the alternative would be YouTube not existing period. Keep in mind that it is in YouTube’s best interest to have as many videos being watched as possible – a video takedown hurts the uploader AND YouTube considering YouTube takes a percentage of the generated advertising revenue.

Third, a lot of companies do want their material to be consumable through YouTube. If YouTube uploaders are posting reviews of a company’s product (e.g. video games), using a product, or otherwise showcasing a company, it creates a win-win scenario for the uploaders and the company. Uploaders get revenue from advertising on YouTube, and the company gets free publicity for its product or work.

Finally, the sheer amount of videos being uploaded to YouTube makes maintaining copyright protection on the site incredibly difficult. 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. This obviously makes it impossible to manually review every single video to see whether it infringes copyright or not. YouTube’s response to this issue is its Content I.D. system, which while effective is still not perfect as it cannot easily distinguish between copyright infringing material and material which is protected by “Fair Use” (creating strong backlash from the YouTube Content Creators).

After working in surroundings that illuminate the many factors involved in Digital Rights Management, I now better appreciate the fact that the process is backed with good intentions and protects creators. No, the idea of the “YouTube Police” isn’t exactly sexy – but ContentID and the Digital Rights work that Bent Pixels does are important in ensuring YouTube stays a fair, exciting forum for creatives and audiences alike.

by Samir Asthana

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