YouTube can't guarantee that its new filtering system will catch every case of piracy. But one company says it can help plug the hole.
Web Sheriff, the British company hired by performers such as Prince and the Village People to protect their music from Web piracy, is now branching into a new service on the heels of Monday's announcement by YouTube.
The juggernaut video-sharing site owned by Google rolled out a long-awaited filtering technology that's designed to automatically detect whether a piece of digital video uploaded to the site is pirated or not.
Here's the rub: Copyright owners must first send YouTube copies of the material they want the system to recognize.
In addition, the more degraded the quality of the pirated copy, the greater the chance it will be missed and not flagged as an illicit copy.
John Giacobbi, Web Sheriff's president, said that what hasn't been established is whether YouTube's new system can recognize music playing within a video. This is of special interest to one of Web Sheriff's clients, the Village People. (Giacobbi's site even features a clip of them.)
YouTube was already using technology from a company called Audible Magic, which offers copyright holders a way to police music, video, and computer software that is being reproduced without permission. MySpace has also licensed Audible Magic's product.
The Village People band has threatened YouTube with legal action over a clip that features its music combined with archival footage of Adolf Hitler. The clip, which has been removed from YouTube hundreds of times and keeps getting reposted, shows images of German youth and the Nazi leader.
"There's still a lot of unanswered questions about the system," Giacobbi said. "YouTube has acknowledged that if you change the file's characteristics enough, video may not be filtered. The site will still need to be monitored, and that's what we do."
Web Sheriff says it will, on behalf of its clients, also handle the transferring of video clips as well as turning the clips into digital fingerprints and dealing with YouTube on a day-to-day basis.
(Editor's note: We couldn't immediately reach YouTube for comment on Thursday. This story will be updated if YouTube replies.)