YouTube begins public test of anti-piracy database

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - YouTube, the Google Inc video-sharing site, said on Monday it has begun public testing of a long-awaited video-matching database in its latest bid to ward off lawsuits over video piracy.

In this file photo Chad Hurley (L) and Steve Chen, co-founders of YouTube, pose after a news conference in Paris June 19, 2007. The video-sharing site, said on Monday it has begun public testing of a long-awaited video-matching database in its latest bid to ward off lawsuits over video piracy. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

The world’s largest online video-sharing site said the YouTube Video Identification technology is a database that stores reference files of original video content and associated ownership rights and compares it to any video YouTube users attempt to upload.

“We will be doing complete file scans,” YouTube Product Manager David King told reporters on a conference call to discuss the expanded video ID test. “A movie studio can give us a three-hour movie and we will scan it in its entirety.”

YouTube had previously said it had begun a private test of the video-identification technology with nine media companies, including several movie studios. It has named only Walt Disney Co and Time Warner Inc as joining the test.

YouTube has come under fire from several traditional media companies that say it has dragged its heels in offering reliable ways to identify video clips uploaded by regular users without permission. In March, Viacom Inc filed one of several suits against YouTube, seeking $1 billion in damages.

Asked by a reporter whether Viacom was taking part in the test while continuing to pursue its federal suit against Google and YouTube, officials of YouTube reiterated that they only had permission to talk about partners Disney and Time Warner.

“Any other discussions have been under NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) and I can’t confirm who we have been talking to,” YouTube Chief Counsel Zahavah Levine told reporters. An NDA is a legally binding agreement not to disclose company secrets.

Viacom’s General Counsel Mike Fricklas said of YouTube’s move to begin public test of the technology: “We’re delighted that Google appears to be stepping up to its responsibility and ending the practice of profiting from infringement.”

YouTube’s attorney said the new technology goes beyond what the company is required to do by law to protect copyrights and that its efforts to help copyright holders had no bearing on the lawsuits against it.

The YouTube Video Identification technology is proprietary to Google, officials said. YouTube already works with a private company, Audible Magic, to offer audio-identification tools to detect unlawful uses of music inside YouTube videos.

This was the latest in a series of moves YouTube has made to ward off widespread piracy of popular video programming and help copyright holders protect their programs.

YouTube has also adopted a technology that identifies exact duplicates of video files, a 10-minute limit on video clips users can upload to the site and an automated process for media owners to notify it of pirated videos.

Levine said her company would consider making its database available to other online video sites instead of keeping the data that media owners provide to itself, a move that would eliminate the need for media content owners to work with different copyright protection systems on dozens of Web video sites.

“We are building this with the idea of opening it up and making it more general over time,” she said of the potential to allow third-party video sites to check its reference database.

MTV Networks-owner Viacom has charged the company with “massive intentional copyright infringement” after demanding the removal of clips of its popular shows “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Attorneys in that case are due in a New York federal court for a status conference on Oct 26.

Additional reporting by Kenneth Li in New York