Google Plans YouTube Antipiracy Tool for September

Google Inc. aims to deliver in September a long-awaited and much-promised technology to combat piracy in its YouTube video sharing site.

During a hearing Friday in the copyright-infringement lawsuit that Viacom Inc. filed against Google, a Google attorney told the judge Google was working "very intensely" on a video recognition technology, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The technology will be as sophisticated as fingerprint technology used by the FBI and Google plans to roll it out in the fall, "hopefully in September," attorney Philip S. Beck of Barlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP told U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton, according to the AP. Fall runs from late September to late December.

Viacom sued Google in March in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging copyright infringement from YouTube and seeking US$1 billion in damages.

The video recognition technology will allow copyright owners to provide a digital fingerprint that within a minute or two will trigger a block from YouTube whenever someone tries to upload a copyright video without permission, the AP reported.

However, contacted by IDG News Service, a YouTube spokesman put some caveats around the attorney's stated timeline for implementing the technology.

"We hope to have the testing completed and technology available by some time in the fall, but this is one of the most technologically complicated tasks that we have ever undertaken, and as always with cutting-edge technologies, it's difficult to forecast specific launch dates," he wrote.

Google is collaborating with "some of the major media companies" in experiments with video-identification tools and is "excited" about the progress so far, the YouTube spokesman wrote.

Google officials have acknowledged that the company is working on a system to deal with copyright videos uploaded to YouTube without permission, a nagging problem that has earned Google many enemies among TV and movie companies.

In April of this year, during Google's first-quarter earnings conference call, CEO Eric Schmidt said the system in development wasn't being designed to filter out and block pirated videos.

Instead, he said Google's upcoming "Claim your Content" tool would help to "somewhat automate" the process through which content owners flag illegally copied videos so Google can take them down from the site, he said.

"It's not a filtering system. The technology doesn't block uploads," Schmidt said in April. "It makes it much more effective and quicker to get us to remove inappropriately uploaded content. It's very much compliant with the DMCA."

It's not clear whether Google changed the design of the tool at some point after Schmidt made those comments, since the attorney's description on Friday seems to indicate that the system would indeed block offending videos automatically without content owners notifying Google. The YouTube spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for clarification of this point.

Friday's hearing was a procedural one intended to set the schedule for the case, such as when the discovery period will begin and end and when the actual trial will begin, Viacom spokesman Jeremy Zweig told IDG News Service.

The comment from Google's attorney came at the start of the hearing, when the judge gave attorneys on both sides a few minutes to present a short outline of what the case is about, to set the stage and put things in context, Zweig said.

The scheduling wasn't completed, so another conference was set for Aug. 6, although that hearing could be canceled if the companies resolve the scheduling issues and notify the judge of their agreements, he said.

Google acquired YouTube in November of last year in a $1.65 billion deal.

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