Amazon solved YouTube's problem 2 years ago

by Paul William Tenny

amazon-mTurk.gifC|Net had a story up on Friday afternoon about a speech by Google CEO Eric Schmidt last year where Schmidt said they were close to flipping the switch on their pirated video filtration system and that it would make piracy a "moot point", at least for YouTube. As Greg Sandoval has pointed out, one year later YouTube hasn't changed a bit while that $1 billion dollar lawsuit filed by Viacom slowly creeps forward. Google knew exactly what it was getting into before it bought YouTube and there are innovative solutions to these problems out there, so I'm not feeling very sorry for these guys quite yet. Everyone has an idea, surely, but believe it or not there's one company out there that came up with a perfect solution two years ago --
The Amazon Mechanical Turk program is an online system setup to match up workers with employers that need jobs done that aren't well suited for computer automation. In the early days, Amazon itself was the most prevalent provider of "work units" through their A9 search platform. Several years ago long before Google ever thought it up, Amazon was sending hundreds of SUVs around the country with cameras mounted on top taking pictures of storefronts. As part of their experiment, a person who accepted a work unit was given a set of four of five images taken in sequence. Also given was the name of a business and its street address. The task was to pick the image that showed the business and move on to the next.

Each job would later be approved by Amazon staff for accuracy, since it was an experimental service, but each job accepted would pay a few cents if done correctly. Two or three cents per job meant you'd have to do them fast -- often with the assistance of a greasemonkey script to streamline the process -- but if you were bored, it was possible to make money doing this. I personally pulled about $370 before Amazon ran out of work to do. Another example of a task is transcribing podcasts. An eight minute clip might pay $3 if the quality is good enough.

The point here is simple; the reason Google's own video service didn't have a piracy problem was because Google reviewed every uploaded video and proactively rejected clips that users obviously didn't own. Probably the chief complaint against them was their regular rejection of copyrighted content that was clearly fair use. But still, the system did work, it just worked a little too well. Can you see where I'm going with this now? Two or more years ago Amazon developed a system that would allow Google to deploy a review team of unlimited size at slave-labor wages.

It may be true that 10 hours of footage is uploaded to YouTube every minute, and it may not, but even at that rate it is well within the capacity of the bored and broke to review that footage and get paid for their time. Amazon's system has ratings and qualifications built-in that would allow accurate and astute reviewers to be rewarded for vigilant yet fair reviews, while filtering out those looking to let pirated videos slide on through or simply to game the system for money. It's hard to believe that YouTube fans would rather see the entire show come crashing down than see the pirated content at least kept at bay, if not shut out entirely. If user honest cannot be taken at face value, the possibility of making money surely should swing the odds in favor of copyright owners.

Google surely has a creative pool deep enough to come up with solutions such as this, which makes you wonder why they'd rather drag their feet and lose a billion-dollar lawsuit rather than take Amazon's idea and run with it -- creating an entirely new economic system in the process. Perhaps Google likes and wants all that pirated content because they know YouTube's popularity would wane without it.

Says a lot about their intentions, with solutions such as this just an arms length away, they'd rather play the role of the corporate monolith and just fight the future instead of embracing and creating it.
in Streaming Video


Related posts:

Leave a comment

View more stories by visiting the archives.

Media Pundit categories