Microsoft puts brakes on Soapbox video sharing

Microsoft has put the brakes on its Soapbox video-sharing site while it implements new technology to detect content under copyright

Microsoft has put the brakes on its Soapbox video-sharing site while it implements new technology to detect videos uploaded by users that could have copyright restrictions.

Soapbox -- Microsoft's answer to Google's YouTube -- was opened up to a public beta last month, with all users allowed to upload videos. That privilege now only applies to registered users and the site is not accepting new registrations, said Adam Sohn, a director in Microsoft's online services group.

Microsoft is trying to constrict Soapbox's growth while it gains control over its 45,000-strong video-clip library in a sensitive legal environment, Sohn said.

Viacom's US$1 billion lawsuit against Google, filed March 13, over copyright content on YouTube "certainly helped" Microsoft's decision to slow down Soapbox.

Microsoft will use technology from Audible Magic that will filter uploaded videos and block those with content under copyright, Sohn said. The company is also creating software for copyright holders that will help more easily identify if their material is online and streamline the notification process.

Microsoft -- as well as Google -- will remove videos under copyright if notified by the copyright holders. That process, however, often involved someone writing down URLs (uniform resource locators) and supplying them to the company, Sohn said.

The tool could take the form of a password-protected portal, but the system remains under development, he said. Microsoft plans to reopen Soapbox to all users within 30 to 60 days, Sohn said.

Sohn wouldn't say how many video clips have been removed so far from Soapbox, but "that it's an ongoing thing, it happens all the time."

Microsoft has reason to avoid annoying copyright holders. It has a standing deal with Fox, part of News Corp., for sports information on its MSN portal, among other content arrangements, Sohn said. In a deal announced on Thursday, Microsoft will help promote a new video-streaming Web site that will be launched by News Corp. and NBC Universal in the third quarter.

Content providers "just want us to do whatever we can to respect copyright and IP," Sohn said.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service

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