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Microsoft: We're not Google, and we're proud of it

Software giant lashes out at Google's YouTube video-sharing site, saying its Soapbox is far more responsible, doesn't take advantage of copyright law "loopholes."

ASPEN, Colo.--Microsoft lashed out at Google's YouTube video-sharing site on Tuesday, saying its own Soapbox is far more responsible and doesn't take advantage of "loopholes" in copyright law.

Thomas Rubin, Microsoft's associate general counsel for copyright, said that unlike YouTube, Microsoft's Soapbox video-sharing site is designed to work in concert with copyright holders and that it represents an effort to be a good corporate citizen. Soapbox uses Audible Magic fingerprinting technology.

In a swipe at Google, which has been sued by Viacom over the presence of numerous copyrighted videos on YouTube, Rubin said at the Progress & Freedom Foundation's Aspen Summit that Microsoft "could have looked for potential loopholes in the DMCA or the fair-use provisions of the Copyright Act...but it would have done nothing to address the significant and legitimate concerns of the content industry." (The DMCA is, of course, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which sets rules for Web site liability.)

"Before a video is uploaded to the site, before it gets posted, there is a fingerprint taken of the file that identifies what that file is, and it's checked against the database that the content industry has created and populated (to tell) whether the uploaded file is infringing," Rubin said. "If it is, we don't allow it to go up. It's that simple."

If current court precedents are any indication, Google may not be legally required by the DMCA to implement pre-emptive filtering techniques. A takedown procedure based on reports of infringing videos may be sufficient. But a Google attorney has said in the Viacom case that some kind of YouTube filtering will be in place by September.

"It's important to point it out because it really should serve as a model for all in the content and technology industries," Rubin said.

Alan Davidson, a Google representative in Washington, responded by saying "Google has valued" its relationship with "hundreds of content creators."

Microsoft has long been more copyright-friendly than Web-centric companies, as evidenced by its support for stronger copyright laws, artificial limits placed on its Zune media player and the remarkable steps it took to embed digital rights management (DRM) for "premium content" into Windows Vista (even to the extent of limiting usability).

One reason why Microsoft is more copyright-friendly than Google, of course, is that it makes nearly all of its revenue not from online advertising but by selling copyrighted software. Google doesn't.