Piracy lives on in the shadows of YouTube (Photo credit: ToobyDoo)

Following the settlement of long-running and landmark legal action between YouTube and Viacom last week, it’s tempting to believe that the worst is behind us in terms of YouTube piracy and the friction it causes between creators and the tech sector.

Unfortunately, the reality on the ground is that much remains to be done before the dominant video platform properly values the creative communities on which it has been built.

It’s a point that Mark Hachman of Tech Hive makes well in comparing the likes of short-lived pirate site Popcorn Time with the relative legitimacy of YouTube piracy.

The validation that the Google-backed site affords various forms of pirate activity is enough to prove that there are still plenty of gray areas where YouTube is  unwittingly enabling access to illegal content.


Four Ways YouTube is Still a Piracy Enabler

For all of Google’s lip service to protecting the intellectual property of creators, it still falls short on both YouTube and its primary search engine business. As it is an entertainment destination first and foremost, YouTube bears the brunt of the direct breaches of copyright leveled primarily at musicians and movie-makers.

Four ways in which it enables this piracy are:

  1. Relying on creators to police copyright infringement: Regardless of their size, resources, or length of time since the original work was released, securing a takedown from YouTube is almost always a result of action by those who own the rights. Just witness this recent discussion on reviewing the DMCA  takedown process to understand how frustrating this can be.Frozen link video YouTube piracy
  2. Permitting ‘link videos’: Pirates are savvy enough to know that even if YouTube won’t host illegal content for long, it’s still a powerful search tool to direct viewers to a site that will. Link videos promise the content that a viewer or listener is looking for, then inform them that it’s available via a link in the video description section. This example from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ provides a popular case in point.
  3. Allowing ads on pirate videos: A double whammy for rightholders, as any streams that popular content generates before it can be removed is turned into ad revenue for the pirate uploader.
  4. Autocomplete suggestions supporting infringing content: However briefly material under copyright appears on YouTube, the platform has such search volume that every instance is an opportunity for hundreds, perhaps thousands of pirate streams. Helping users to find these illegal instances by suggesting searches like “Frozen full movie 2013” not only promotes pirate uploaders, it could needlessly lead users who never intended to search for a pirate version.


While it’s important to acknowledge the progress that has been made, as well as the potential for YouTube to become a major source of revenue for artists of all sizes and styles, there are still some gaping holes in the Google’s fight against copyright infringement.

Some of the burden on rightsholders needs to be lifted and more of Google’s extensive, innovative resources targeted at the problem if YouTube piracy is to truly be challenged.

Enhanced by Zemanta