YouTube has taken a big step in the past few days in its effort to stop the copyright lawsuits from piling up by announcing an intention to implement video recognition technology—video fingerprints—by the fall of 2007.
The technology will complement the companys use of Audible Magic, which identifies audio copyright violations, with a video component. The technology will screen videos after they are uploaded, using digital fingerprint technology that flag and remove a copyrighted video if it is uploaded without permission. The tool will not block uploads.
Although the technology is a necessary step, its unclear why YouTube parent Google is choosing to screen videos after they are uploaded to YouTube instead of screening them before they are fully uploaded, said Greg Sterling, an analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence in Oakland.
"You would think that if they were going to be super-aggressive about it, they would screen the uploads," he said. "But they are probably trying to maintain a delicate balance because YouTube was built on ease of use and the ability to quickly upload video, and if they were to gate that experience, it might be problematic from a political standpoint."
Sterling also found it curious that Google is choosing to use technology other than that offered by Audible Magic, which has a video component.
"The only thing I can think of is that Google thinks it has developed something better or wants to own the capability," he said, "because the copy on the Audible Magic site uses the same language about fingerprinting and near real-time identification of violations."
But by implementing this technology, YouTube is doing more than stemming the tide of lawsuits—it just makes good business sense, said Gregory Rutchik, founding attorney at The Arts and Technology Law Group in San Francisco.
"Googles business model is ad revenue, and YouTube is just more real estate for them to sell ads," he said, adding that this gives Google and YouTube something to put on the table with business negotiations and will make content owners feel comfortable that the piracy issue has at least been addressed.
"I think its less about litigation and more about striking a deal and quickly responding to any objection that a content owner/partner would have," Rutchik said.
Both Sterling and Rutchik agree that YouTube is doing what it has to do to survive and prosper, given that video is a burgeoning advertising medium online, and YouTube is by far the dominant video site.
"As long as people are interested in telling their stories, YouTube will make a place for them to do it, and Google will still make money selling ads. They are doing what they have to do that ensure that," Rutchik said.