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Cost to Google to Pre-Screen YouTube Videos to Prevent Copyright: $37 Billion Per Year

As I noted in Software Industry Needs 2 Million Patent Attorneys and $2.7 trillion per year to avoid infringing software patents, for the software industry to monitor and be sure US software patents are not infringed, it would cost literally trillions of dollars–far more than the entire industry is even worth. And now it appears similar absurd results apply in the case of copyright. As noted by Glyn Moody at Techdirt, it would Google about $37 billion per year to pre-screen YouTube videos to ensure no copyright infringement, about equal to Google’s annual revenue. In other words, for many key industries (I would argue for all) it is literally impossible to comply with these “property rights” and survive. Some property rights.

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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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.