The rabidly popular MySpace social network on Monday launched a pilot program to prevent its users from uploading unauthorized copyrighted video material to the site.
The MySpace video-filtering system, based on fingerprinting technology from Audible Magic, screens video clips posted to the site by its members and blocks those uploaded without permission from the copyright owner.
MySpace, which is owned by media conglomerate News, last year implemented a similar filter to detect illegally uploaded music files. It also offers a tool for copyright owners to request the removal of unauthorized content.
The issue of illegally uploaded videos is at center stage right now, mostly due to the massive popularity of video sharing site YouTube, which Google acquired last year for US$1.65 billion.
Along with stacks of personal video clips, YouTube members have also posted, without permission, tens of thousands of videos containing portions of commercial movies, TV shows and music videos, to the dismay of companies such as NBC Universal and Viacom International.
This month, Viacom, in a very public spat, angrily accused YouTube of not doing enough to block the uploading of Viacom video material and demanded the immediate removal of more than 100,000 of its clips from the video-sharing site.
The decision came after Viacom, whose properties include MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures, negotiated with Google for months and was unable to reach what it called "a fair market agreement" with the search engine giant.
Days later, NBC Universal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Zucker added fuel to the fire by saying that YouTube needed to be more stringent in its efforts to block illegally copied clips.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google is again in damage control mode regarding video copyright, after it became known that the company sold advertising that helped to market an application allegedly designed to help people find and download pirated movies online.
The Journal learned of Google's involvement with the marketing of this application from people familiar with depositions taken in an ongoing civil lawsuit brought by major Hollywood studios in 2005 against two men who sold the software via two Web sites.
Quoting anonymous sources, the Journal reported that the defendants, as well as a Google employee, said under oath that Google assigned the defendants account representatives who assisted them with their Google ad campaigns. The Google assistance included offering them credit and suggesting they use keywords such as "bootleg movie download" and "pirated" to promote their Web sites.
The plaintiffs, which include News Corp., Viacom, Sony, NBC Universal, Time Warner and The Walt Disney, complained to the search engine company, which responded by holding a conference call with the media companies on Friday, according to the Journal.
Google pledged to remove certain ads the companies object to, create a list of approved advertisers and stop selling keywords meant to drive traffic to pirated material, the Journal reported. Google also committed itself to monitoring keywords more closely and to train its ad sales team on avoiding the sale of those types of ads.