Media companies have been spending much time, effort, and money on stopping online piracy at sites like YouTube and MySpace through expensive lawsuits and vigilance. In essence they end up playing a game of global whack-a-mole – shutting down sites or suppressing content only to have their copyrighted material pop up somewhere else overnight.
So if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
That seems to be the impetus behind YouTube and MySpace’s recent forays into a new form of advertising – video ads on pirated copyrighted content. YouTube uses the same technology that allowed content owners to pull down videos, VideoID, to help media companies identify targets to monetize.
Instead of the user finding their video removed by YouTube they might get an e-mail which, according to the New York Times says:
“ ‘…a YouTube partner made a copyright claim on one of your videos.’ The e-mail message explains that the media company has ‘authorized the use of this content’ and that viewers may see advertising on the video.’”
The content owner then sells ad time on the content which gets split with YouTube. The user who uploaded the vid in the first place sees not one dime – a punishment befitting the crime. According to Google a whopping 90% of identified videos that are posted in violation of copyright are converted to the ad platform.
Now comes word that MySpace has jumped on the bandwagon along with MTV and a company called Auditude. Auditude claims to have “…calculated unique electronic signatures for 1.2 billion minutes of programming. The company’s automated software bots also scour the Web, looking for video signatures on sites like MySpace TV, YouTube, Veoh and the rest.”
The bottom line with copyright infringement online is not so much a moral or ethical one as it is financial.
So what happens if users get tired of seeing advertisements on their videos and decide to abandon the platforms that allow it? Enter sites like copyright holder-backed Hulu.com. Hulu can serve less obtrusive advertising and attract more viewers to their content. Better site metrics can help them to charge more even if their ads aren’t as noticeable.
In the meantime this kind of “fingerprint tracking” technology should be expected to spread and become increasingly platform agnostic – as will the system for delivering ads. Most host sites would prefer to stay up and not have to shut down due to legal issues or lack of content. Media companies would rather convert to a revenue stream than get stuck with spiraling legal costs.
So far this hasn’t proven to be a viable model for music infringement as video is an inherently more ad friendly visual platform. It will be interesting to see if companies like Auditude or even the media companies on their own try to make it work for music in the future.