Google is rolling out a new set of tools, snappily titled "Video Identification", as part of its deep and personal commitment to protecting the rights of copyright holders. The fact that they’re being sued by Viacom for a billion dollars right now is probably just a coincidence.
Broadcast of copyrighted material is against YouTube’s terms of service. However, it turns out that when you give people the ability to upload any video file they want, saying "And don’t do anything naughty with it!" doesn’t quite work.
The current strategy is to remove copyrighted material as soon as YouTube is notified of its presence. This effective strategy merely requires the legal owners to constantly search the site twenty four hours a day in order to prevent theft.
The new tools, as reported by the BBC, will compare uploaded videos with archived records of copyrighted materials. The exact mechanism of comparison is not yet known, but is expected to be cracked by users within a fortnight of release at most.
This strategy also requires copyright holders to give legitimate copies of all material to Google/YouTube for comparison. The idea of Google as a world-conquering behemoth is nothing new, but when a step in their plan reads "Get every firm on Earth to give us copies of all their belongings", it’s easier to believe.
The fact remains that as long as there are more users than employees it will remain impossible to prevent piracy by any means short of an intelligent computer that refuses to take part. And once our internet browsers stop us from doing illegal things, it’ll be time to scrap the whole system and start again from 386s.