How Much Would It Cost To Pre-Screen YouTube Videos? About $37 Billion Per Year...

from the copyright-does-not-scale dept

Last week we reported that videos were currently being uploaded to YouTube at the rate of 72 hours every minute, and asked how anybody could expect Google to pre-screen such a deluge. Techdirt Insider xenomancer has gone a little further by working out how much it would cost to screen that material for potential copyright infringement, doubtless something the media industries would love to see imposed.

Most of the calculation is straightforward, but there's one key variable: the kind of person who will do the screening. You can't just use random people off the street, or starving artists, or bored software engineers, because the crucial question they must answer is: does too much of this video infringe on somebody's copyright? Only one class of person is qualified to answer that, and hence to take on this job: judges. Or, more specifically:
horribly underpaid judges who happen to be extremely efficient at determining the copyright status of each video they watch and choose, of the little free will they have, to consider all video uploaded.
Using the fact that the average pay for a judge in Silicon Valley is apparently $177,454, and that based on the volume of uploads and number of hours in a working day, a mere 199,584 judges would be required as screeners, this gives us the final figure for the cost of checking properly those 72 hours per minute:
$36,829,468,840 per year.
Interestingly, Google's revenue for 2011 was $37,905,000,000.

Absurd as this calculation may be, it does reveal the key problem with unthinking calls for YouTube videos to be pre-screened for possible infringement: only suitably-qualified individuals can do that, and eventually you run out of them. In other words, attempts to police rigorously online materials are doomed to fail by the nature of the copyright system itself. Basically, copyright does not scale.

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Filed Under: screening, video
Companies: youtube

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  1. icon
    xenomancer (profile), 1 Jun 2012 @ 8:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Beyond the fact that in the end only a judge has the final say on whether or not a work is infringing on a copyright (which I used as a fact based not-so-far-fetched logical extreme), my derivation for what I still consider to be a grossly simplified first approximation is based on the assumption that Google has decided (or was ordered) to settle the question of copyright status of all new content hosted on YouTube.
    I don't care how good Google's coders are, they can't and never will replace an actual judge.
    And this was why I leaped so far to an extreme in my assumptions. The entitlement mentality cultivated by the ability to sever the abstract ownership and rights to a fixed implementation of creative effort is skew to the progressive attitude concomitant to technological progress. Attempting to get the needs of both to intersect requires a warped view of reality or a questionable point of view.

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