Copyrights and Filters

Viacom, a large media corporation, has filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google, the parent company of YouTube. Viacom claims that YouTube hosted more than 150,000 unauthorized clips that members had viewed more than 1.5 billion times [source: FindLaw]. Google developed a filter system that uses content recognition software to identify video and audio, but there's a catch -- Google has to have copies of the original material to compare it against the videos on YouTube. Some media companies aren't eager to hand over thousands of hours of programming to another corporation [source: Forbes].

The Rules of YouTube

A quick sample of some of the videos on YouTube might lead you to believe that anything goes. In reality, YouTube has a strict set of rules that all members must follow. Specifically, it's against YouTube's policies to post videos that:

  • Are pornographic or sexually explicit
  • Contain frontal nudity (though bare behinds abound on YouTube)
  • Feature graphic violence
  • Include disturbing or disgusting video footage
  • Violate copyright laws
  • Contain hate speech, including verbal attacks based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, disability or nationality
  • Reveal other users' personal information

While YouTube employees often browse user videos, there are too many uploads -- more than 65,000 per day -- for staff members to view every one to make sure it meets community guidelines.

YouTube relies heavily on community members policing the site. Every video has a link under it titled flag. Clicking on this link will alert YouTube staffers that someone believes the video content violates YouTube's terms of use. Staffers review every flagged video, and if they agree that the video violates YouTube policies, they'll remove the clip from the site and send a warning to the video's creator. If the violation is really extreme, YouTube might also delete the creator's account.

Some content has landed YouTube in hot water with national governments. In April 2007, Thailand officials ordered a countrywide ban on YouTube when the Thai government identified a clip as offensive to King Bhumibol Adulyadej. YouTube removed the video and agreed to ban any other videos that contained material offensive to the people of Thailand. In August 2007, Thailand lifted the ban on YouTube [source: afterdawn.com].

Members who use YouTube responsibly know that there's no shortage of cool features. In the next section, we'll learn about the tricks YouTube provides to make Web pages and videos more exciting.