Japanese authors (JASRAC) make copyright demand to YouTube

December 6, 2006

News: The Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers sent a demand letter to YouTube complaining about infringement of copyrighted Japanese material. If you remember, last month YouTube pulled down 30,000 videos that may have infringed Japanese shows or music.

JASRAC doesn’t like the current “notice and take down” policy of YouTube. Instead, it wants YouTube to be more proactive in policing its site before content is posted. According to one report, “The Japanese group also demanded that until YouTube implements proactive anti-copyright technology, the video sharing site should post a message in Japanese warning users that they may be prosecuted for posting copyright infringing videos, keep a register of names and addresses and terminate accounts of illegal posters.”  (More from Stan Beer)

Analysis: This is a recurring question in the Internet context — how much should websites or service providers be expected to “filter” or prescreen content of third parties before it gets posted on the site. The DMCA safe harbor provision, which applies in the U.S., attempts to strike a balance between stopping copyright infringement and not overburdening websites to screen every single piece of third party content before it is posted. The “notice and take down” policy is one that DMCA adopts.

JASRAC, however, raises a legitimate question about other alternatives. YouTube says it’s developing filtering technology to help identify potentially infringing files. At least JASRAC has not (yet!) suggested that YouTube should hire employees whose job would be to censor out any file they suspect could infringe someone’s copyright. That would be a herculean task. Over 65,000 videos are posted a day on YouTube, and that number is only growing. I would not relish the job of any person who had to sit all day flipping through videos, many of which are frivolous, if not downright stupid. I’m not sure how much you’d have to pay me to do that job.