Latest YouTube Fuss Shows Tech Limits In Piracy Screens

As of this morning, a two-minute clip showing a protest in New York by Students For A Free Tibet can once again be seen on YouTube. But earlier this week, the clip disappeared after the International Olympic Committee sent YouTube a takedown notice.

The video, "Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony," included some images related to the Olympics, but clearly doesn't violate the IOC's copyright. Even the IOC now realizes this. When YouTube questioned the Olympics committee about the takedown, the IOC withdrew it.

The IOC sent the takedown notice because it was relying on a computer program to flag videos that violate its copyright, according to the Guardian. But, as such programs are wont to do, it wrongly identified a non-infringing video.

While the video is back up now, the incident highlights one of the problems with attempting to use technology to screen out pirated material: Such technology is notoriously unreliable. It results in the preemptive ban of some legitimate material while also failing to catch some pirated material.

Those flaws are one justification for the current copyright scheme laid out in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows companies to host user-generated clips without first vetting them for copyright infringement. The DMCA provides that as long as Web companies take down such clips when the copyright holder complains, they're generally immune from liability.

Companies like Viacom would like to see that change. Viacom, which sued YouTube for $1 billion for copyright infringement, argues that YouTube should proactively install filters to screen out Viacom content.

As this latest IOC takedown snafu shows, there are good reasons why YouTube is fighting the notion that it's legally required to engage in such preemptive screening.

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