Infringing Videos Not Big on YouTube?

A new study from Vidmeter.com (PDF) finds that, among nearly 7,000 of YouTube’s most popular videos, fewer than 6 percent were removed due to requests and/or demands from copyright holders.

Vidmeter decided to take a look at YouTube’s list of most-watched video clips fourt times per day between December 9, 2006, and March 22, 2007, pulling down YouTube’s own lists of the most-watched videos by day, week, month, and all-time. Vidmeter then pulled info for each video four to eight times a day, including the total number of plays, its name, and copyright information. When YouTube removed a video at the request of a copyright holder, the site replaces the video with a message but takes down the total number of plays the video received prior to removal; in those cases, Vidmeter would use the most-recently retrieved play count in its statistics.

The results? “We have concluded that unauthorized copyright videos make up a relatively small portion of YouTube’s most popular videos and an even smaller portion of views to YouTube’s most popular videos,” Vidmeter wrote in its conclusion. Of the 6,725 most popular videos on YouTube, only 621 (less than ten percent) were removed due to requests from the copyright holder. Furthermore, views to the removed videos made up less than 6 percent of all views attributable to YouTube’s most popular clips.

Media holders dispute Vidmeter’s methodology and conclusions, point out that Vidmeter’s study only accounts for clips which were removed by YouTube, and ignores unknown numbers of infringing clips from the same copyright holders (many of which are duplicates of taken-down clips) which have avoided notice and remain accessible on the service. Also, many copyright holders may not have sent takedown notices to YouTube, and the site requires constant policing. “YouTube’s site is designed in ways that make it impossible for rights holders to locate all of their copyrighted content, so even a robust take down notice program will miss significant amounts of copyrighted material,” a Viacom spokesperson told Reuters.

Vidmeter also points out that the reason full-length clips of infringing material may not be very popular on YouTube is that they’re quickly noticed, reported, and taken down; however, Vidmeter points out that such content would still only account for a small fraction of YouTube’s overal views.

YouTube is currently facing a $1 billion suit from media giant Viacom, which accuses the Google-owned company of “massive” copyright infringement.

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