What is Content ID?

Given the internet is a multi-faceted environment, how can someone monitor his or her copyrighted content on the web? The internet has been called the “wild west” and yields limited regulations requiring lots of research, practice, and guidance to properly navigate its pathways.  While self-tracking mechanisms can work in limited circumstances, however they may be imperfect solutions in the long run.  Ultimately, Google may have figured out the answer, but the implementation tends to go above and beyond what is asked of it through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and falls short of what society could hope for monitoring copyright infringements.  So, what is a content identification system? How does it work? What is it applied to and can it help protect your copyrights?

What is YouTube’s Content ID?

It appears that Google is the entity that has figured out how to solve the issue of identifying and flagging copyrighted content for the original owners. Yet, it comes with a caveat. What YouTube does is with clips of copyrighted content.  So, in reality it determines certain patterns and aspects. This makes it incredibly useful in flagging songs, music, and film footage, which are items that YouTube deals with on a regular basis.  This means that in any flagging online, a company can automatically issue some action, take downs, placing advertising on it, or otherwise dealing with an infringing party.  Yet, this requires that any entity taking part in this program has submitted the work to Google for YouTube’s Content ID system. Noticeably, the Content ID system does not consider any fair use defenses that carve out exceptions to copyright infringement.  Instead, it just looks to see if there is a match before taking one of the pre-determined actions. This limits the utility of the system, dependent on the Lenz ruling, and any future developments regarding fair use principles and the duties of online service providers under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Is there an application elsewhere?

Currently, YouTube, as a major online service provider, uses this system, although to implement it elsewhere may be impractical or financially impossible.  To imagine such a service, it would require any online service provider to hold and maintain a database capable of storing any copyrighted material sent to it, and then scanning other content for matches to determine if it is infringing material.  The sheer magnitude of this sort of undertaking is underscored by the fact that Google is currently the only entity that uses such a tool on a global scale. However, it’s not to say that an application elsewhere is going to be impractical in the future.  As more storage space becomes available for less cost, the likelihood of the service being used by others can increase in the future.  Furthermore, if it becomes profitable or mandatory for online service providers to utilize a content identification system, then it would lead to a new phase where copyright holders can place less effort to protect their intellectual property rights.

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