Media Cos. Release Digital-Copyright Principles

Cooperative Effort by Copyright Owners, User-Generated-Content Providers

A group of media companies banded together to draft a series of principles aimed at protecting the intellectual property of content owners online.

The principles call for a cooperative effort by copyright owners and user-generated-content providers to develop a system that will prevent the unauthorized uploading of copyrighted content.

The principles the group outlined were released Thursday afternoon and include the following:

• Implementation of state-of-the-art filtering technology with the goal to eliminate infringing content on UGC services, including blocking infringing uploads before they are made available to the public;

• Upgrading technology when commercially reasonable;

• Cooperating to ensure that the technology is implemented in a manner that effectively balances legitimate interests, including fair use;

• Cooperation in developing procedures for promptly addressing claims that content was blocked in error;

• Regularly using the technology to remove infringing content that was uploaded before the technology could block it;

• Identification and removal of links to sites that are clearly dedicated to, and predominantly used for, the dissemination of infringing content; and

• Promotion of content-rich, infringement-free services by continuing to cooperatively test new technologies and by collaboratively updating these principles as appropriate to keep current with evolving developments.

The group consists of media companies CBS, Dailymotion, Fox Entertainment Group, Microsoft, MySpace, NBC Universal, Veoh Networks, Viacom and Disney.

“It is exciting to witness the creative community reaching consensus with the tech community on reasonable rules of the road for online media,” said Patrick Ross, executive director of trade group The Copyright Alliance. “These are common-sense principles that recognize the important roles of both industries in respecting and protecting the interests of copyright holders while also acknowledging the value of true user-generated works and respecting fair use.”

Fair-use advocate Public Knowledge criticized the announcement. The organization’s president, Gigi Sohn, said the principles are really demands by a group largely unrepresented by companies that host user-generated content. “What is important to see is which companies are not here -- Google, AOL, Yahoo, Facebook and others, which together host a great deal of content generated by individual creators online,” she added.

This announcement comes just days after Google, which owns user-generated video portal YouTube, announced the launch of its own technology to thwart unauthorized uploading of content. Now beta-testing, the YouTube Video Identification system uses digital-fingerprinting technology to identify copyrighted content by cross-referencing it in a database of media files supplied by media companies.

With the Google technology, media companies have the option to block the content, promote it or license it for advertising purposes.

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey was surprised that today’s announcement did not include any such specifics of economics, calling it a missed opportunity for the industry to take a step forward. “There’s no technology behind it,” McQuivey says of the announcement, “It’s just a legal draft of their points of contention.”

Another difference between the proposed principles and Google’s system are that clips will actually make it on to YouTube before they are detected and removed, but the industry wants technology developed that will block infringing content before it hits Web sites. But this is not what the industry should be worrying about, McQuivey said, adding, “Whether or not someone has access [for a few hours] is not the end of your business.”

Google’s YouTube has been hit with several copyright-infringement lawsuits from media companies. In March, Viacom slapped a $1 billion suit on the video aggregator alleging that it was carrying more than 160,000 unauthorized clips.