The Cost of YouTube Piracy [INFOGRAPHIC]

Since YouTube’s creation, it has been making attempts at reducing copyright infringement. Even with its recent Jay Leno and Rick Astley fiascos, YouTube has so far largely managed to keep many illegal uploads from seeing the light of day. They’ve even go so far as to ban users from the site and preventing users from uploading copyrighted material by attending “copyright school”—think of it as YouTube’s version of high school detention or Saturday school.

How does copyright infringement affect the average user? The Motion Picture Association of America came up with some statistics last year on “The Cost of Content Theft” and it revealed that $58 billion in American economic input is lost annually due to people stealing copyrighted films, TV shows, music, video games and more.

Of course a lot of it involves people downloading films via torrents but for those who are scared of using them, YouTube is another option—if you look hard enough. Even though many have countered the MPAA’s calculations by stating “a bunch of zeros and ones do not cost the industry a dime unless they actually represent something that would have been bought otherwise,” it hasn’t stopped the aggressiveness from the big media industries.

It’s the same people that have pressed for stricter regulation of what is uploaded on the Internet, including scrutinizing YouTube and Facebook for possible copyright infringements on the millions of videos and photographs uploaded on these sites. Some governments like India suggest that YouTube screen EVERY single video for copyright infringement, but at what cost?

According to TechDirt, a blogger named xenomancer did his math and came up with the estimate of $36,829,468,840 per year to screen every new video uploaded on YouTube. Here’s the breakdown:

  • To effectively monitor YouTube against copyright infringement, you would need to hire judges who are versed in copyright law. The average salary of judges in the Silicon Valley region (where YouTube & Google are headquartered) is $177,454.
  • If they wanted to keep up with the 72 hours of video uploaded every minute on YouTube, the company would have to hire 199,584 judges to screen and scrutinize.

The numbers may be beyond reason, but would $37 billion in gatekeeping costs be worth it to save part of the $58 billion lost from piracy as the MPAA states in its statistics? Well, if Google—the parent company of YouTube—earned roughly the same amount in revenue as the projected costs for video gatekeeping, it doesn’t make much mathematical sense since they only made $37,905,000,000.

In fact, a recent TED speech by Rob Reid, a comic author and the founder of the company that created music subscription site Rhapsody, pointed out the folly of what he called “copyright math.” He acknowledged that while music revenues have fallen, movie and television revenues have increased since the Internet became prominent, thus putting a dent on the $58 billion economic loss argument.

With the proliferation of videos every single minute flooding YouTube, is it possible to prevent monetary losses by filtering out every pirated or questionable video from the site? Absolutely not. The current system of reporting and removing copyrighted material may have its flaws, but it has largely prevented full episodes and some movies from reaching YouTube and it is at a more reasonable cost than the estimated $37 billion annually if cries of strictly scrutinizing every uploaded video before going public were to become a reality.

So with all the logistical and financial costs explained, is preventing piracy on YouTube worth the $37 billion in costs? Making it fair for everyone to profit from their hard-earned work is important, but it’s doubtful that they would spend all the resources to eradicate something that may never cease.

[Sources: TechDirt, xenomancer, MPAA, TED]