Google debuts video copyright technology

Trying to put video copyright disputes behind it, Google last week unveiled a long-awaited system that purports to allow media companies to prevent their clips from being posted to YouTube without permission.

Google is offering its new “digital fingerprint” technology to all media content companies. If successful, the system could eliminate pressures on the company over claims of copyright violations on its video sharing Web site.

Google told the “New York Times” that it had been testing the system with nine media companies, including CBS, Disney, NBC Universal, Time Warner and Viacom.

Google called the tests “promising” but would not tell the newspaper how effective the system is today. Only a week ago, Google chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, said that developing a system that could identify video clips with 100 percent accuracy was virtually impossible. “The question is, can we get to 80 or 90 percent?” Schmidt asked in an interview.

At least one of Google’s testing partners told the “Times” that the system is very much a work in progress. “They still have a ways to go with the system before we could call it totally sufficient,” said Edward Adler, executive vice president for communications at Time Warner.

Google said that its video identification service, which was developed in-house, requires media companies to submit digital video files to Google, which would then create a digital “fingerprint” for each file. That fingerprint would then be uploaded to a large database. Once a user uploaded a new clip, the same technology would determine whether that clip’s fingerprint matched a fingerprint in the database.

Content owners, the “Times” reported, could instruct Google to block clips whose fingerprints matched their copyrighted clips. Alternatively, they could ask Google to promote the clip, or place advertising around it to share revenue from the ads.

Not everyone was pleased with Google’s effort. “I think this is a completely inadequate solution,” said Louis Solomon, a partner in Proskauer Rose, which represents the Football Association Premier League of England, a lead plaintiff in a class-action copyright suit against Google. “It is too late in coming; it offers too little protection; it gives YouTube and Google content that they don’t need and shouldn’t have.”

Some consumer groups, meanwhile, told the “Times” they are concerned that Google’s new system could prevent uploads of video clips that were authorized under “fair use” provisions of copyright law.