Building a business based on copyright infringement (or, "Bad business idea #487") gets some ink in the New York Times today. The piece spends a decent amount of time explaining the success of the site: it’s makes money off other people’s IP.

How do you build a business by stealing other people’s content? Very simple, don’t do the stealing yourself, but rather let your users steal the content. YouTube will, of course, take down content when an IP owner sends a DCMA letter, but as the Times points out the number of people submitting content now greatly outnumbers the ability of content owners to send in remove requests.

It’s a game of whack-a-mole and YouTube isn’t going to get away with it for much longer.

YouTube knows this all to well, and they are being cute about it. These type of companies are leeches. They know that their business is predicated on people stealing content and they hide behind this silly disclaimer that users agreed that they owned the content they submitted. Yeah, right… the dozens of Saturday Night Live clips on your site are owned by the people who submitted them. Sure… whatever.

These guys are going to get smacked down with huge lawsuits. Just because you’ve moved Napster to the Web doesn’t mean that you’re home free (ironic isn’t it? Ip theft moved from the web to P2P, got smacked down by the courts and is now back on the web!).

Flickr is a community for people who create content, YouTube feels like a community build off people stealing content. Sure, there are people on the service who are not stealing, but I gotta think the majority of their traffic comes from stolen IP. A business based on stolen IP is just not sustainable–there are too many high-priced lawyers out there.

That being said, the people who own these videos are learning the hard lesson of the Internet: either you can make your content availabe, or your customers can.