Video Fingerprinting Won't Stop Piracy

Video fingerprinting won't stop piracy. It won't even be able to contain it. Anybody who tells you different is selling something. Probably fingerprinting software.

The reasons are simple: The technology isn't perfect; users will upload somewhere else; and users will find pirated content on P2P networks, darknets, foreign servers, etc ad infinitum.

That's the worrisome part, at least for media companies. But instead of tackling that rather large problem, the media companies are incensed at Google, which they accuse of dragging its heels on employing video fingerprinting.

Google's not dumb. The G Poppa refuses to implement fingerprinting technology because doing so could implicate it in foreknowledge of the actual piracy. We'll filter, says Google, but only if you sign a licensing or partnership agreement. That way we're protected from lawsuits and you're protected from rampant piracy on our site.

Otherwise, under the DMCA, sites that have "actual knowledge" or control of infringing content can lose the DMCA safe harbors. Hence Google's upcoming "Claim Your Content" program, which looks like it will only flag videos that may be infringing and notify the copyright owner that hey, you may want to have this removed. Google retains plausible deniability, and the media companies get reassured -- albeit temporarily -- that Google is trying to help.

But meanwhile, copyrighted clips will continue to slip through, either slowly on YouTube or en masse on P2P networks. Band-aid, meet cracking dam.