YouTube's new copyright filtersTechnology will remove copyrighted clips

17 October 2007

Online video leader YouTube has rolled out technology to automatically remove copyrighted clips, hoping to placate film and television studios fed up with persistent piracy problems.

But Louis Solomon, a lawyer representing football's Premier League and music publisher Bourne in another copyright infringement case against YouTube, criticised the new filtering system as 'wholly inadequate'.

'It does nothing about the past and won't be enough to protect the future,' Solomon said.

The filtering tools are designed so the owners of copyrighted video can block their material from appearing on YouTube, which has become a pop culture phenomenon in its two-year existence. The tools also give the owners of copyrighted video the option to sell ads around their material if they want the clips to remain available on YouTube.

Copyright filters

To find and remove copyrighted music, YouTube already uses separate filtering tools developed by Audible Magic Corporation.

YouTube's previous lack of copyright protections for video content prompted Viacom to sue it for £500 million for showing thousands of clips that the New York-based company owned.

As YouTube's traffic soared, film and TV studios became increasingly frustrated with the rampant piracy fuelling its popularity, though YouTube said it had followed copyright laws by removing protected video upon request.

YouTube's critics have argued that the site turned a blind eye to flagrant piracy so it could show more appealing material to build its audience and pump up its value. Google prized YouTube so much it paid £880 million to buy the site 11 months ago.

YouTube had been working with Google engineers ever since to develop the tools needed to flag copyrighted video, said David King, a YouTube product manager.

Protection

Google and YouTube executives began promising the new copyright protection technology six months ago.

'It has taken until now to get it right,' King said.

YouTube now needs the co-operation of copyright owners for its filtering system to work because the technology requires copyright holders to provide copies of the video they want to protect so YouTube can compare those digital files to material being uploaded to its website.

This means that film and TV studios will have to provide decades of copyright material if they do not want it to appear on YouTube or spend even more time scanning the site for abuses.

'We really need the content community to work with us,' King said. 'We need them to help us help them.'

Without the help of copyright owners, YouTube had no way of knowing whether material has been legally or illegally posted to the site, King said, because copyrighted video is sometimes provided by the legal owner for promotional purposes.

But YouTube's critics argue that it does not take a legal expert to spot some of the pirated material.

'If there has been a clip from American Idol posted to the site by Joe Schmoe in Oklahoma instead of Fox, you can be pretty sure it's not supposed to be there,' said Rob Gould, vice president of marketing for Broadcaster.com, a rival video site.

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