Google testing YouTube antipiracy system

Google this week began testing an antipiracy system for its YouTube video-sharing site.

For now, video owners interested in participating in the beta testing of the system need to submit a request to Google, but the company expects to make it broadly available as the testing progresses.

"As we scale and refine our system, YouTube Video Identification will be available to all kinds of copyright holders all over the world, whether they want their content to appear on YouTube or not," the YouTube information page reads.

It remains to be seen whether this highly anticipated system will help to appease those video content owners who argue that YouTube doesn't do enough to prevent and combat piracy on its site and that instead it profits from the unauthorized and illegal uploading of copyright clips.

Asked for comment about the YouTube system, a Viacom spokesman said via e-mail: "The case still continues. We've clearly suffered significant past damages, which are also a subject of the litigation. It's really too early to tell what the effect of this development might be on the case."

Eric Goldman, assistant professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, doesn't believe the DMCA requires a site such as YouTube to have a video ID system like this one.

Nevertheless, from a legal perspective, having this system could have both positive and negative consequences for Google if the case goes to trial, he said.

For example, the plaintiffs could try to use the system's existence against Google by arguing that it proves Google could have done more in the past to prevent and combat infringement.

Along those lines, the plaintiffs could also identify cases of infringement the system fails to identify -- once it is fully implemented -- and then argue that Google built it poorly and thus should take responsibility for the copyright violations.

On the other hand, Google could present the system as an example that it is going beyond what the law requires in order to do the right thing and try to get the judge to find its efforts laudable, Goldman said.

In practice, the system's efficacy depends on the willingness of video content owners to cooperate with the effort and submit their TV shows, movies and other material to Google for inclusion in the repository.

On a broader scale, Goldman believes the case is ripe for a settlement. "It makes no sense for these parties to be litigating in court," he said. "There are many ways they could work together that would be mutually beneficial."

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