MySpace, MTV test piracy-profit plan

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A new technology that essentially allows content owners to profit from piracy will get a high-profile test this month from MySpace and MTV Networks.

The MTV logo can be seen on a sign in front of the MTV studios in Times Square New York December 12, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Instead of triggering the usual take-down notices, copyright-infringing footage of select MTV Networks programing uploaded by MySpace subscribers would be automatically redistributed with advertisements that would generate revenue for the companies. MTV Networks is the parent company of such channels as MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Spike and Nickelodeon.

MySpace is turning to third-party tech firm Auditude to deliver the technology through a combination of patented assets: a sophisticated ad-serving platform with a video-fingerprinting system that cross indexes billions of seconds of TV and online footage in seconds.

“This is a game-changer,” said Jeff Berman, president of sales and marketing at MySpace. “We’re going from a world of no to a world of yes while protecting the rights of the copyright holder.”

MTV Networks is allowing only a mix of a handful of current and archived series to be tracked by Auditude, including MTV series “Punk’d” and “True Life” as well as even more Comedy Central series, including “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report” and “Reno 911.”

The Auditude technology is similar to a system already being employed by the only site that has more traffic than MySpace: YouTube. The site’s Content Identification tool gives content owners the choice of removing infringing material or serving an ad.

In success, these systems have profound implications for the online video marketplace. With marketers reluctant to sign on to anything that doesn’t deliver TV-sized audiences, the prospect of reclaiming pirated content would in theory exponentially expand the reach of programing carrying their ads.

The MTV Networks initiative comes even as its parent company, Viacom, remains embroiled in a long-running legal battle with Google over claims that YouTube enabled massive copyright infringement of the conglomerate’s content.

Mika Salmi, president of global digital media at MTV Networks, drew a distinction between the efforts of MySpace and YouTube.

“This deal with MySpace is quite different,” Salmi said. “MySpace has always respected copyright and is more progressive about copyright in our mind. The way we’re pushing this out with Auditude and MySpace is different than with YouTube or our past associations there.”

The ads served through Auditude are called “attribution overlay,” a semitransparent strip that covers the lower third of the video player. Although the exact formatting of the overlay will vary as the companies experiment, it will identify the channel that provides the program as well as links to either see a full-length episode or purchase a download. In addition, the overlay can convey a separate brand message from an advertiser that could trigger a second video within the player.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter