Seven months ago, Viacom filed a copyright infringement lawsuit demanding $1 billion from Google and YouTube and charging the companies with “brazen disregard” for intellectual property laws and threatening “the economic underpinnings of one of the most important sectors of the United States economy.”
On Tuesday, YouTube finally launched a content identification system, YouTube Video Identification, to give copyright owners some measure of control over the presence of their content on the site.
The new service requires that content owners upload videos they wish to protect so that a “hash” — a numeric fingerprint of sorts — can be created. That done, content owners will be able to prevent YouTube users from uploading copies of their videos; they will also have the choice of monetizing unauthorized uploads with ads.
“Video Identification goes above and beyond our legal responsibilities,” said David King, YouTube Product Manager, in a blog post. “It will help copyright holders identify their works on YouTube, and choose what they want done with their videos: whether to block, promote, or even — if a copyright holder chooses to license their content to appear on the site — monetize their videos.”
YouTube’s and Google legal responsibilities are at issue in Viacom’s copyright lawsuit.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Google, as an Internet service provider, escapes liability for copyright infringement by its users if it responds quickly to notifications of copyright infringement.
Viacom claims that Google and YouTube “actively engage in, promote and induce this infringement,” and thus shouldn’t qualify for safe harbor protection.
It’s not yet clear whether YouTube’s new technology will prompt Viacom to drop its copyright claim. When the lawsuit was first filed, pundits observed that the lawsuit was a negotiating tactic to force concessions of some sort from Google.
In April, at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, Calif., Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicted that as Google rolls out its content protection system, “the issues in Viacom become moot.”
Yet, 64 legal filings later, the case chugs along, with Viacom still apparently set on a $1 billion pay day.
In his post, King pointed out that Google already has a number of content policies and tools in place to help copyright owners. These include account terminations for repeat infringers, technical measures to prevent videos that have been removed from being re-uploaded, a 10-minute limit on the length of uploaded content, an electronic notice and takedown tool, and prominent copyright compliance tips for users.