YouTube Not Built on Big Media’s Back?

So maybe YouTube really is about the long tail, the little guy, and the lonely girl. Videos removed at the request of copyright owners accounted for just 5.93 percent of the site’s 6,725 most-viewed videos over the last three months, according to a study by video-tracking site Vidmeter (see summary, full report).

Four times a day, Vidmeter checks YouTube for the 100 most viewed videos of all time, the month, the week, and the day. For the purposes of the study, it compiled a list of URLs where videos had been replaced with a takedown notice alert. The disappeared videos accounted for 9.23 percent of top videos and 5.93 percent of 94,187,203 views of these videos — not anywhere near the majority.

Viacom famously demanded YouTube to take down 100,000 copyrighted clips, and later claimed 160,000 clips seen 1.5 billion times had been pirated when it sued Google for more than $1 billion dollars. According to Vidmeter, just 72 of Viacom’s taken down clips had made it to the most-viewed videos list — 1.07 percent of the top videos accounting for 2.37 percent of views. The most-affected copyright holder was reportedly actually Time Warner, with 93 clips.

In many cases, according to Vidmeter founder Bri Holt, multiple companies claimed to own the copyright on a video. Viacom, Sony, and the RIAA all took it upon themselves to demand removal of the music video “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne.

Presumably Viacom took responsibility because the clip aired on MTV or VH1, Sony because Lavigne is signed to Sony BMG, and the RIAA because it likes to take action against music piracy. “Even these major copyright holder are confused as to who should do what with this!” commented Holt in a phone interview Tuesday.