If there’s one thing that YouTube absolutely loathes, it would be aggressive filtering.
Which is funny, because that’s exactly what major media companies want. And with some estimates pegging music videos at nearly 40 percent of total YouTube traffic, that group definitely includes labels and publishers.
Have fun battling the DMCA in the US, but in Germany, the story is now completely different. Ahead of the weekend, Hamburg court judge Heiner Steeneck ruled that YouTube must proactively install filters to prevent unauthorized uploads of certain music videos, instead of relying on post-upload takedown procedures. That includes expansions beyond current systems like ContentID into areas like keyword filtering and blocks.
The decision represents a massive victory for GEMA, a royalty collections society with a tough and difficult reputation when it comes to rights licensing. Unsurprisingly, GEMA was the group that brutishly forced this through the German court system, though this isn’t quite the bloody scalp raised in the air – yet. Google-owned YouTube is planning an appeal (of course), and the company has not been pegged with any third-party copyright violations for past issues. “Today’s ruling confirms that YouTube is a hosting platform and cannot be obliged to control all videos uploaded to the site,” Google lawyers asserted.
Actually, this is more like a serious victory for rights owners, and goes far beyond GEMA (if it ultimately stands). Part of the reason is that the world gets to see what a fully-implemented, more serious filtering system would look like on a platform like YouTube.
It could be a sloppy experiment. One argument is that broad-based filters can never be effective, simply because of the sheer volume and variants of the content involved. That includes some sharp criticism over keyword filtering, which can deliver a high rate of misses. But the broader argument that containment is ineffective is actually full of holes – and, may be ignoring the rather effective controls YouTube has against pornography, including highly illegal forms.