The problem of rampant copyright infringement on sites like YouTube can’t be solved by technology alone. In fact, a group of lawyers probably wouldn’t agree about who owns what on a given piece of uploaded content, senior Google executives said when asked about how the company addresses the problem.
Speaking at the D: All Things Digital conference in Silicon Valley last week, Google SVP of Advertising Susan Wojcicki and Sundar Pichai, SVP of Chrome and Google Apps, told interviewer Walt Mossberg that the problem of policing copyright infringement on YouTube is far more complicated than simply identifying a piece of copyrighted content and removing it from the site.
Mossberg prefaced the question by pointing out that Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of talent agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, had said “about 22 times” that YouTube was unwilling to stop violating the copyrights of his clients, yet they can easily filter out obscene content like child pornography.
“I think he was misinformed, very misinformed,” Wojcicki said. “We have done as much as we possibly can. We do not want to be building a business based upon piracy.”
She added that whereas child pornography is easy to identify by simply looking at the content, copyrighted material is far more complicated.
“What's important to understand is it's tough to scan through a video and know for sure that it's copyrighted and who exactly owns the copyright,” Pichai said.
“Take a bunch of content, take a bunch of lawyers, and ask them who owns which content. I'm sure the lawyers won't agree,” Wojcicki said, adding: “There can be different components within the same show owned by different people. We can solve all the technical parts. But at the end of the day, in order to know what to do with that content, we need to hear from the content owner.”
YouTube currently uses a system called Content ID to identify copyrighted material. Content owners are asked to give YouTube either video or audio clips from their catalog that they have rights for. When the system identifies a piece of their content, they are given a choice: they can keep the content on the site and enter into an advertising revenue-sharing arrangement with YouTube, or they can ask YouTube to simply pull it down.
Pichai said YouTube has sunk $30 million into Content ID, and will continue to improve it.