The Lazy Rich and Their Easy Rents

Bob's BurgersSince I no longer have Netflix, I went searching for the fourth season of Bob’s Burgers. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Netflix doesn’t currently have the fourth season of the show. But since I had to look, I figured I might as well look for something that I hadn’t seen. I didn’t realize that I could actually get it through Hulu, although the truth is that their interface is hard to use. So I went to YouTube, and I was surprised to see that it had lots of full episodes of Bob’s Burgers — probably all of them.

Normally, you wouldn’t see that because Bob’s Burgers is a Fox show and they are shockingly aggressive about their copyright claims. When I created a short (32 second) video about the Three Houses of Parliament that used a small bit of Arrested Development, Fox immediately flagged it as theirs. I made a fair use claim and Fox eventually accepted it. But it gives you some idea of how strict they are about this kind of thing. So having full episodes up on YouTube was shocking. How could it be?!

Well, it turns out that YouTube entrepreneurs are very clever. I put on the following video and I noticed that they had made three changes, that I could tell — maybe more. They enlarged the image; they tilted the image slightly; and they raised the pitch of the sound slightly. This is apparently enough to fool the automatic filters. That goes along with how I’ve always assumed YouTube does its copyright checks. It takes many tiny video and audio snippets and does cross (time) correlations with the uploaded videos. It wouldn’t take much to push the correlation way down.

This video has been on YouTube for almost three months. And I think this is pathetic. I’m not talking about the poster of the video. I’m talking about Fox and all the other government mandated monopolists. They care about their intellectual property, but not enough to actually police it themselves. They only care enough to provide a little data to YouTube and have their dirty work done for them by a computer program.

I think this speaks to the modern world generally. The rich can better exploit their rents without doing any work. The rich are now richer than they used to be (in a relative sense), not because they are better than they used to. They are richer because technology and government protections allow them to be. In the past, it was pretty hard for a distribution company to police its “rights.” Now, YouTube does it for them automatically.

Of course, as computing power goes up, YouTube will catch up and check for standard alterations of video like we see above. But notice what’s going on here. YouTube will be “innovating.” But it is only for the purpose to maintaining the riches of the already rich. A big part of what YouTube does with its resources is protect big name content providers — because YouTube is afraid of them. This is like doctors practicing “defensive medicine.” This is the end all healthcare idea for conservatives (tort “reform”) because according to them, medicine costs so much because of this. (It’s not true; we pay so much because doctors are paid twice what they are in other advanced countries.) But they aren’t at all concerned about the great costs associated with “defensive legalism.” And why is that? Because going after “defensive medicine” takes rights away from the poor. On the other hand, going after “defensive legalism” would take money away from the rich. Can’t have that.

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