June 11, 2007 4:00 AM PDT
Hollywood's YouTube frustration grows
The search engine has made significant progress in recent weeks signing content partnership deals for YouTube. But a growing number of studio executives, irritated by no-shows at meetings and canceled test programs, say they are frustrated with Google's inability to scrub the site of copyright-infringing material.
While CEO Eric Schmidt made big news in Las Vegas two months ago when he said the company was very "close to turning on" a system that will streamline the takedown process, when that system actually will be deployed is a mystery.
Adding to the agitation, copyright-filtering technology is already in use at smaller video sites such as Guba, Dailymotion.com and Eyespot. Even Microsoft has installed the features for which Hollywood is clambering on its Soapbox site.
So why not YouTube? Increasingly, media executives are wondering whether the video-sharing giant is doing its best to come up with copyright-protection technology or playing a game of chicken in which billions in sales and perhaps the future of copyright law is at stake.
"Clearly, this is not a resource constraint. This is a function of will," charged Darcy Antonellis, senior vice president of worldwide anti-piracy operations for Warner Bros. "We are making very clear (to YouTube) what has to be done...and it has got to move along at a much faster pace."
Copyright owners are starting to show they mean business. Last week, two French sports groups joined a British soccer league in a class action lawsuit against Google. Already hanging over the search engine's head is Viacom's $1 billion copyright complaint filed in March.
Copyright infringement at YouTube and Google Video has also attracted scrutiny from the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a private watchdog group that advocates for ethical conduct in the public arena and is known for exposing corruption.
NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm said that in just a couple of weeks he has found more than 125 full-length movies, TV shows and live music performances on Google Video. He strongly doubts Google when it says it can't block infringing content.
| Now showing |
The National Legal and Policy Center surveyed Google Video in recent weeks and found more than 120 copyrighted movies, TV shows and music videos available for viewing. Below are some of those titles.
|Miami Vice (French dub)||6||650|
|The Office, Season 2, The Fire||1||3,069|
|Pirates of Silicon Valley||7||10,419|
|The Wire, Season 4, Episode 9||4||26,095|
|United Flight 93 (French dub)||6||10,047|
| *Does not represent unique visitors. As of midday Tuesday, the above titles were still up. |
"If a 58-year-old former prosecutor can find this stuff, Google should be able to," Boehm said. "I'm nobody's idea of a computer expert. These folks are bleeding edge in terms of information. They should be ahead of the curve. This undermines the credibility of their technology...We think there isn't good faith in their representations that they are doing all they can."
YouTube makes deals--lots of them. Major media powers, such as CBS, NBC and Warner Bros. have agreements to post promotional clips on the site.
Last week, YouTube announced a licensing agreement with Hearst-Argyle Television. YouTube agreed to pay for news weather and entertainment videos from the company's member stations.
Recently, YouTube announced a partnership with EMI Records that allows it to host videos and music from EMI artists.
YouTube said in a statement that the company expects to "continue to take the lead" in providing state-of-the-art tools that help content creators find violations of their copyright.
"Most content owners understand that we respect copyrights," Catherine Lacavera, one of Google's attorneys, said in a statement. "We work every day to help them manage their content...These lawsuits simply misunderstand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which balances the rights of copyright holders against the need to protect Internet communications and content."
Google has said that once YouTube's new system launches, it will speed the process of notifying copyright owners of violations.
In interviews with CNET News.com, executives from five entertainment companies said they began questioning YouTube's commitment to antipiracy systems a year ago. They say YouTube backed out of a meeting last year among the Motion Picture Association of America and most of the frontrunners in online video, including Guba, Joost, Grouper and MySpace, according to two sources.
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