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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2012 @ 4:48am

    So the artists, musicians, studios and labels have to suffer losses of 250 billion dollars because google who benefits greatly from the availability of free stuff online (so many of the top searches have the keywords of free and torrent alongside the titles of copyrighted films, tv, software and music)refuses to spend the $36,829,468,840 (despite having it) necessary to monitor for copyright infringement because if they did they would only make a profit of just over a billion dollars.

    That is of course if google paid for all monitoring, but the search engines could easily work together to monitor and removal all infringing material.
    The employment of 199,584 judges would help to boost the economy therefore increase ad revenues to google, thereby helping to defray the costs relating to their responsibilities.
    Google's motto is don't be evil and if helping to prevent pirates from destroying the various entertainment industries isn't the very epitome of that motto then I don't know what is, while standing by and doing as little as they can possibly get away with to prevent it is in fact being evil.

    It's like a city refusing to pay for stop lights and signs claimed to not be being evil because it isn't actively encouraging people to be run down on the street.

    A billion is surely plenty for google to make for providing a search engine service and some free email accounts. When they start making major blockbuster films, top albums, complex software and videogames then they can start claiming some right to benefitting from them being made available for free by pirates and linking to those.

    As people have pointed out before, if google wanted it could buy at least one major record label, games company, even movie studios but it doesn't and why not?
    Because the return on that is a lot less than return achieved from the eyeballs delivered to google by the pirates.

    Equally, google could protect the sanctity of marriage by not linking to gay sites like disney and could prevent terrorism by removing links to all sites in foreign languages or hosted outside the US.

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