YouTubes Anti-Piracy Tool Fuels More Questions

Is Google's new Video Identification tool the olive branch anti-piracy activists have been looking for?

Google made good on its promise to unveil a "highly complicated" content-protection tool, but is this the olive branch anti-piracy activists have been looking for?

Experts agree its a step in the right direction but not a silver bullet.

The YouTube Video Identification tool includes a database of reference material provided by rights owners, and then extracts key visual aspects of uploaded videos to identify potential matches, for which rights owners choose whether to track, monetize or block their content, a Google spokesperson told eWEEK Oct 16.

In a similar method to Audible Magics technology, which finds audio copyright violations, Video Identification takes a "fingerprint" or unique digital signature of the copyrighted video. YouTube scans files that get uploaded, recognizes the fingerprints and blocks the files.


To read more about YouTubes copyright move necessary for survival, click here.

Google tested the technology with nine partners, including media companies Time Warner and Disney. The tool comes more than six months after the Mountain View, Calif., company promised a platform to stymie the proliferation of copyrighted content on YouTube, which has raised the ire of copyright holders and anti-piracy experts.

YouTube is still entangled in a court case in which media content conglomerate Viacom sued the site and Google to the tune of $1 billion for copyright infringement. Viacom was optimistic about the new identification technology.

"Were delighted that Google appears to be stepping up to its responsibility and ending the practice of profiting from infringement," Mike Fricklas, general counsel of Viacom, said in a statement.

Anti-piracy activists say the Video Identification may not be the salve the industry thought it would be.

Patrick Ross, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, a trade group of media companies and other copyright holders, told eWEEK the move is a first step on Googles part to put forward some technology.

"Anything that it stops before the infringement occurs is a benefit, but we have to acknowledge that this is still putting a significant burden on copyright holders," Ross said, noting that the rights owners have to provide their content to Google so the company can match the copyrighted work to material on YouTube.

The Copyright Alliances larger members can probably afford to do this, Ross said. However, smaller copyright holders, such as a startup that produces a syndicated television show or an independent filmmaker, could find this challenging.

"This isnt going to solve all of the problems," Ross said. For example, he said the tool doesnt address the notion of copyrighted works within other works, such as a song used in a film.

National Legal and Policy Center Chairman Ken Boehm was also unsatisfied by Googles new tool, wondering what Google plans to do to protect films on Googles Video offering, which his organization accused of gross copyright infringement of movies in a letter sent to Congress Sept. 25.


Read more here about Legal watchdog points out copyright infringement on Google Video.

Google isnt committing to what it plans to offer to combat piracy on its Video site.

"As we scale and improve this [YouTube Video Identification] system, we look forward to working with rights owners on extending an innovative solution to Google Video in the not-too-distant future," a spokesperson told eWEEK.

Boehm suggested Google hadnt produced a content-filtering system to fend off piracy because it craves the traffic it gets from the pirated films.

"We think its too little, too late," Boehm told eWEEK. "Google is the most technologically advanced search engine company in the world and in all this interim time when they could have set filters of some sort in place, they chose nothing rather than something that may be not perfect."


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