It just got harder to post your favorite clip from American Idol or last night's Heroes to YouTube. On Monday, the Google-owned pop-culture phenom launched a new technology that automatically removes copyrighted clips. The new tools not only allow copyright owners to block their material from appearing on YouTube, they also provide an option to sell advertising around the clips thus monetizing offending material while allowing it stay online.
Nine content providers helped test this new offering, which requires studios to provide copies of copyrighted video to be protected by the filtering system, and subsequently compares such files to material being uploaded to the site by users. Of the nine, only Disney and Time Warner have publicly admitted to participating in the trial of the tool that went online Monday.
At present, it remains unclear whether this new initiative will have any effect on the $1 billion lawsuit filed by Viacom earlier this year. (The entertainment giant that owns MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central alleges that YouTube's "business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws." ) However the project clearly demonstrates that YouTube's parent company is ramping up efforts to placate copyright owners.
This isn't the first time that Google has made efforts to appease YouTube's detractors and to bring them aboard. Previous attempts to stave off legal action by the entertainment industry have already yielded deals with content providers, including the BBC and Sony/BMG, to legally display content on the site in exchange for a share of advertising revenue generated by visitors to YouTube Channels.
Advertising is Google's bread and butter and the company has a whopping 40 percent share of the US online advertising market. The search engine giant's acquisition of YouTube last year, for a walloping $1.67 billion sent shockwaves through the online industry and had critics speculating as to the viability of the move, partly due to copyright issues and partly with respect to the place of the video-sharing site within Google's overall product strategy.
Last week, Google announced that it would integrate select YouTube content into its popular AdSense service. The keyword-based advertising program, which matches ads with website content, will henceforth include video units, which will feature content from select content partners embedded within AdSense ads. However, critics of this new initiative suggest that the video component runs counter to the most compelling feature of Google's current text-only AdSense content, its unobtrusiveness.
Whether this approach will stem the tide of piracy and increase online revenues for YouTube, its partners and content creators, remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: the success or failure of this initiative rests solely upon the shoulders of copyright owners and their ability to provide data if sufficient quality and quantity to protect their holdings.
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