Updated 12:30 p.m. PT
A coalition of major media and technology companies that notably does not include Google appears to be getting serious about copyright on the Internet.
A who's who of media companies--CBS, News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group, NBC Universal, Viacom, and Disney--as well as Microsoft and the News Corp.-owned MySpace, along with video-sharing sites Dailymotion and Veoh Networks released a set of guidelines Thursday designed to halt online piracy.
Notably absent from the list is Google, which unveiled filtering technology for its YouTube video-sharing site on Monday. Sources familiar with the coalition plan say Google was involved in the talks at one point, but backed out shortly before making its own announcement. Disney and Microsoft initiated the effort, multiple sources said.
"Initially Disney reached out directly to us," Veoh Networks CEO Steve Mitgang said in an interview with CNET News.com.
In response to questions, Google released a statement from YouTube Engineering Director Jeremy Doig: "We appreciate ideas from the various media companies on effective content identification technologies. We're glad that they recognize the need to cooperate on these issues, and we'll keep working with them to refine our industry-leading tools."
A YouTube spokesman who asked not to be named says Google had talked to Disney about the guidelines but Google and YouTube executives decided not to join the alliance because they were worried that creating "industry-wide mandates" would stifle innovation.
A source close to the deal hinted that the longstanding billion-dollar lawsuit between Viacom and Google over copyrighted content on YouTube may have played a role in Google's decision to back out, citing the possibility that it could have affected how the litigation would unfold. And another source familiar with the alliance finds fault with the fact that Google's new filtering system doesn't actually block infringing content from being posted, but supposedly removes it from the site within minutes. The media group's guidelines call for "blocking infringing uploads before they are made available to the public.
"It's unprecedented that these disparate companies have come together," the source says. "It's a real loss that Google isn't a part of this."
The companies expect to implement the guidelines before the end of the year, another source at one of the companies says. It hasn't been made clear whether this will mean we'll be seeing more announcements and partnerships--or more specifically, whether the two video-sharing platforms involved in the alliance, Veoh and DailyMotion, will become more attractive business partners for the major media and technology companies involved.
"Our goal is to be a vital partner for premium independent and individual producers. We're already a partner to CBS," Veoh's Mitgang said, referring to the company's new online video-sharing network. "We are actively working with everybody on the list regarding this."
Representatives from multiple companies involved in the initiative emphasized that it's not a closed partnership and that other corporations may be introduced into it as well--provided they are willing to adhere to and support the guidelines.
"The principles acknowledge a collective respect for protecting copyrights and recognize that filtering technologies must be effective and are only a part of what is necessary to achieve this goal," a joint news release said.
The guidelines also call for companies to: balance the legitimate "fair use" rights for using copyrighted material, promptly address claims that content was blocked in error, and upgrade technology "when commercially reasonable."
Protecting fair use--which allows people to post excerpts of copyright content and use content for educational purposes and for parody--is important, says Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, which monitors copyright issues online.
Boehm criticized Google for not joining the effort. "Google is continuing to play hard ball," he says. "They are going to use their market share and economic power to just hold off any kind of reform or compromise."
Several sources say plans have been made for representatives from some members of the new alliance--though it's not yet clear which companies--to head to Washington, D.C. soon to meet with members of Congress on the matter. Rather than move to encourage more legislation, it's to educate lawmakers on the issues and show them that occasionally-sparring media and technology companies can handle this on their own.
A full list of the principles involved in this new set of guidelines, which emphasize high-tech filtering, quick removal of pirated content, and promotion of infringement-free digital content, are publicly available at the new site UGCPrinciples.com.
The news was originally reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier on Thursday.
With contributions from CNET News.com's Elinor Mills.