Media, Web Companies Set Copyright Rules
Thursday, October 18, 2007; 5:58 PM
LOS ANGELES -- A coalition of major media and Internet companies Thursday issued a set of guidelines for handling copyright-protected videos on large user-generated sites such as MySpace.
Conspicuously absent was Google Inc., whose YouTube Web site this week rolled out its own technology to filter copyrighted videos once they've been posted.
Media companies Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc., CBS Corp., NBC Universal and News Corp. joined Internet companies Microsoft Corp., MySpace, Veoh Networks and Dailymotion to issue the guidelines, which would require sites to use filtering technology to block copyrighted clips from being posted without permission.
The incentive for the coalition's Web sites and others to comply is the media companies' promise not to sue if any copyrighted material sneaks past their best efforts to block it.
"Today's announcement marks a significant step in transforming the Internet from a Wild West to a popular medium that respects the rule of law," NBC Universal president and chief executive Jeff Zucker said in a statement. "By recognizing the mutual benefits of a technology-based framework to control piracy, technology and content companies have laid the foundation for the lawful growth of video on the Internet."
Web companies that are being sued by content owners might be reluctant to join such coalitions, especially when other coalition members are seeking compensation for past violations, said Internet attorney Andrew Bridges of the San Francisco firm Winston & Strawn.
"In general, it's not a surprise that companies in litigation can be reluctant to join something that may be only a partial resolution to an overall dispute," Bridges said.
Bridges called Thursday's guidelines more of a treaty than a contract, noting that the coalition members specifically stated that the guidelines do not preclude any company from seeking legal remedies in a dispute.
"These principles may be a noteworthy attempt to reach some common ground that could minimize friction and minimizing friction is good for everybody except the lawyers," Bridges said.
The guidelines, which do not apply to search engines, e-mail or browsers, are designed for sites that host user-generated clips _ like YouTube.
YouTube, which is being sued by Viacom for allowing copyrighted videos to be posted on its site, announced its long-awaited filtering technology Monday.
That technology would identify unauthorized content after it is posted on the site, then take steps to remove it.