June 11, 2007 4:00 AM PDT
Hollywood's YouTube frustration grows
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Soon after the meeting, YouTube asked the MPAA to help test a filtering system, according to two studio executives. YouTube told MPAA officials that they were close to deploying a content filter and wanted "real-time MPAA feedback." But at the last minute, YouTube canceled the test and has refused to commit to another, say the executives.
A YouTube representative did not directly address the canceled meeting or the test.
"If (Google and YouTube) truly respected copyright, they would do what every other media company has to do," said Mark Cuban, co-founder of HDNet, a high-definition TV network and vocal YouTube critic. "Find the copyright owner and make a deal."
Right now, cleaning up pirated content on YouTube is left to copyright owners. Big entertainment conglomerates, with literally thousands of shows, movies or music videos must hunt for unauthorized copies themselves.
Even some of YouTube's partners say that forcing companies to sift through videos isn't the answer. They want YouTube to deploy automated systems that prevent pirated clips from being uploaded. What angers them most is that at least a half dozen of YouTube's competitors have already begun doing this.
The most recent example came last week. Microsoft's Soapbox launched a "proactive filtering" system that it built in partnership with Audible Magic, said Rob Bennett, MSN's general manager of entertainment and video. Others in the sector who have similar systems are Grouper, MySpace, Dailymotion.com and Break.com. Audible Magic is also working with YouTube on its system.
The filtering system works by creating a digital fingerprint of a video and then storing it in a database. The system then detects the clip even if the format or length is altered, Bennett said. "It's no magic bullet," Bennett said. "If we don't have a clip in our database, we can't catch violations."
There's another caveat: the less-than-week-old filtering system at Soapbox may not work, according to an informal test of the site this week by the blog, Newteevee.com. The system failed to prevent the uploading of a copyright video multiple times, according to the blog.But some protection is better than none at all, Bennett said, adding that digital fingerprinting is highly effective.
Still, Google insists that it's challenged by filtering systems. At the NAB conference in April, Schmidt told the crowd that one reason for the delay in deploying a system is because such technology is difficult to build.
That surprises Roman Arzhintar, the former general counsel and a vice president of strategy at Guba. He notes that Guba, a 20-employee video-sharing company, developed a filtering system a year ago.
"Saying these systems are hard to build is like saying it's hard to build cars with good gas mileage," Arzhintar said. "Sure it's hard, but there are plenty of things you can do to keep material off a site--even one as large as YouTube's."
Antonellis of Warner and Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal, both said that they are pleased with the progress Google and YouTube have made in developing a new filtering system, but they caution that media companies won't wait forever.
"I think the industry standard has been set," Cotton said. "In some sense the debate is over. The question is when people will decide to measure up."
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