Google's Giving YouTube a Pass With Its New Piracy Provisions (Updated)

Google is implementing a new policy that will smack down search results from sites that get a lot of DMCA requests. That must affect Google's own YouTube, which must get slammed with them all the time, right? Not exactly.

Search Engine Land provides an in-depth explanation of exactly what is going on, but it comes down to one major detail: YouTube video takedowns aren't necessarily DMCA takedowns. In fact, that usually aren't. You see, YouTube has this "nice" feature called Content ID which allows rightsholders to automatically police YouTube content, complain about possible infringement, and have videos taken down. None of this, however, involves the DMCA. This is just handy YouTube functionality.

Google's new policy will start knocking down site rankings after [X number] (kept secret, for the time being) of requests against pages on the site. So if you're a torrent site, people might DMCA the pages where your links are. If you're using your own player to host copyrighted video, people might DMCA the whole page where you posted it. But if you're YouTube, it's much easier for people to just use the built-in YouTube system to dispute the video, not the page. Elsewhere, DMCA is best option other than the dreaded "strongly-worded email."

Sure, sure, OK. But what does all that mean? It means that while sites that get a bad name for hosting copyrighted content and get DMCA'd a lot will get a slap in the Google rankings, YouTube won't because technically it's not getting many requests. And because the takedown requests that are coming in through Content ID specifically reference the videos and not the pages they're hosted on, YouTube won't get hit with a mark against the actual YouTube.com domain.

There are two ways to look at this. First, you can say that Google is being biased (maybe even evil) by giving its own site what seems like a very technical and dubious pass. On the other hand, you can say that Google is just rewarding YouTube for having such a proactive, easy to use, built-in takedown system, even though that system gets things wrong a lot. In either case, the whole thing smells just slightly funny because YouTube is a Google property, though frankly, it'd probably take a lot more than this policy to unseat the reigning video king. [Search Engine Land]

Update: Since we ran this article, Google has clarified that YouTube won't be getting any special treatment, per se. You can read about the details of their clarification here.