Content ID: Strength and Weakness

Almost from the very beginning, YouTube was one of the most popular platforms for pirated video content. When YouTube creators gave the opportunity to bloggers to get paid for displaying ads, the issue of copyright became even more acute. That is why the Content ID algorithm was created.

The first Content ID used on YouTube since 2006 was invented by the famous anti-piracy company Audible Magic. In 2009 the site became the property of Google, and the contract was broken. So then Google began to develop its own video piracy detection system, which was still called Content ID. Audible Magic reminded about their right to the Content ID trademark only in 2017 and filed a complaint against Google.

The Content ID operation raised many questions. Therefore, over time, the algorithm evolved, methods of protection became harder, and interaction with users became more flexible.

What is Content ID and whom does it protect?

Content ID is something like a “fingerprint” for videos that allows identifying the original video content on other YouTube channels. It protects video and audio from unauthorized copying and distribution on YouTube.

If a coincidence is found, the system claims the content rights on behalf of the owner and offers to choose one of these tactics:

  • block video
  • receive income from views on this resource
  • analyze statistics in which countries and where content is popular.

The second tactic caused the most indignation. The video game streamers were first who suffered from it. The profits from their game reviews on YouTube went to the game developers.

The Content ID developers extraordinarily solved this problem. They forbade connecting the algorithm to video game streaming and trailers. The Content ID also cannot be used for these kinds of video:

  • recordings of performances, concerts, shows, and so on
  • mashups, compilations, and compilations of other works
  • unlicensed music and video
  • licensed music and video, but without exclusive rights.

The protection of Content ID applies only to copyrighted and unique materials. For example, the Nostalgia Critic’s reviews on movies do not fall under protection, since the algorithm does not consider this content unique. Also, to connect Content ID, the YouTube channel must be alive and quite popular.

Ways to bypass Content ID

The first and most clumsy way to cheat Content ID is making video unique. Pirates stretch the image, change the color of the picture, distort the original sound, cut the video into short fragments up to 30 seconds that the algorithm cannot identify. As a result of changes the video often becomes unsuitable for viewing. Besides, the channel owner is threatened with a warning and then blocking of his channel in case of detection of such tricks.

The second way to work around Content ID is to challenge the complaint. If the copyright holder has not responded to the complaint within 30 days, it’s considered illegal, and the content remains on YouTube.

Another way – posting videos on new channels. The essence is simple. The pirates create a new channel, do not confirm it via SMS, upload a video there for more than 15 minutes, then confirm it. As a result, Content ID ignores most of the channel content.

Content ID really weeds out some of the pirated content, but misses a lot and often makes mistakes. For example, the piracy detection system complained about the video, where the musician plays Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, and interpreted it as a Daniel Barenboim’s performance.

In summary, the copyright content concept is a subtle matter that an algorithm cannot always to identify correctly.