The New York Times reports this morning that Google has unveiled a system to automatically prevent copyrighted videos being uploaded to YouTube. This system looks to be an olive branch in what’s turned into a bitter battle between Google and major media companies, including everyone from Disney, CBS, NBC to Viacom and Time Warner.
The system uses a fingerprinting technology, where media creators would upload content to Google’s servers. Google’s software, in turn, creates a fingerprint which is checked against any files that a user attempts to upload. If the file too closely matches the fingerprint, the upload is blocked.
The opinions of media representatives about the technology range from the lukewarm to the dubious, and for good reason. While from a copyright-owner perspective it’s nice to see Google taking a serious move towards blocking free uploads of copyrighted video clips, their position has long been that their position as a sharing-service is protected by the 1998 DMCA. Google is happy to remove copyrighted clips when alerted to their presence, but the lack of a cohesive, thorough means of blocking these uploads has frustrated media companies and lead to accusations of Google’s profiting off this copyrighted material (by having a service that is more popular because of the unauthorized content).
While the record-companies continue to wage war against file-sharing even as the future of DRM grows more and more dubious, it’s clear that the copyright battle is just beginning for video media. And Google, as much as they can within legal limits, is standing on the side of more open sharing and proliferation than the media companies that risk losing a lot more with this emerging technology.