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Summary:

Livestream has issued an open letter touting its “zero tolerance” piracy policy while also comparing its policies against those of Justin.tv and Ustream, its closest competitors. The letter, which is addressed to “content and event owners” (i.e. potential customers), seeks to differentiate it how it treats […]

Livestream has issued an open letter touting its “zero tolerance” piracy policy while also comparing its policies against those of Justin.tv and Ustream, its closest competitors. The letter, which is addressed to “content and event owners” (i.e. potential customers), seeks to differentiate it how it treats piracy from the other live streaming platforms it competes against.

Livestream’s piracy prevention includes an automatic take-down system that enables rights holders to kill streams without having to send takedown notices. That system, which Livestream enabled in 2008, has been effective in reducing the amount of work it has to do, while also speeding up the process, according to Livestream CEO Max Haot. Livestream also limits the number of concurrent streams any user can support until the user is verified by a Livestream team member, limiting the number of fly-by-night video streamers that pop up to feed particular events or popular pieces of content. Since the number of concurrent streams is capped at 50 users, live streams aren’t able to grow too large or become very prominent before it is taken down, which limits the amount of pirated content that makes it into Livestream’s most popular feeds.

Livestream says some competing platforms are benefiting from piracy in a number of ways, including increased traffic numbers and increased advertising revenues on popular (but unlicensed) video content. As an example, Livestream points to some of the most popular channels at Justin.tv and Ustream as a way to point out how its competitors allow pirated videos onto their systems. Justin.tv’s most popular page is particularly egregious, with channels like “South Park 720p HD” and “24/7 Family Guy.”

Justin.tv and Ustream have both been under legal pressure from rights holders in the past. The British Premier League threatened legal action against Justin.tv in late 2008 over pirated streams of its matches. And boxing promoter Square Ring sued Ustream over alleged copyright infringement last August.

But both Justin.tv and Ustream said on the phone today that they are working to restrict the amount of pirated content that occurs on their sites. Justin.tv and Ustream have both implemented the same sort of automated takedown that Livestream uses, enabling rights holders to kill streams they believe infringe on their content.

Both are also using fingerprinting technology to automatically detect and delete infringing streams. Last year, Justin.tv said it would tap Vobile to help it launch an automated fingerprinting technology to stop pirated streams from being uploaded. Ustream president Brad Hunstable says his company is also implementing fingerprinting technology and working with partners to ensure that its streams don’t violate their rights.

The problem is that the fingerprinting technology is not able to catch everything, because not all rights holders send their content into databases that the companies run their filters against, says Livestream CEO Max Haot. This is perhaps seen best in the Justin.tv screenshot above, where prominent Fox and Viacom VOD content is still available for streaming. Until video fingerprinting technology gets up to speed and all rights holders get on board, Haot argues that Livestream’s user verification system, combined with automatic takedowns, has been more effective in thwarting piracy.

Related GigaOM Pro content: Live Event Coverage: Video Rights Roundtable (subscription required)

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  1. This is an interesting article to read today, because as mentioned in the article, live sports, especially soccer, are a huge draw for viewers. Games not televised locally, or only available in expensive cable packages or pay-per-view, are all over sites like Ustream, Justin.tv and others, including Veetle (not to mention P2P-TV services out of China, of course).

    There are a number of interesting international soccer matches today that will likely drive a great deal of traffic to sites that stream them for free. From a user’s perspective, of course, live events like sports are the final frontier of content, as essentially every other form of digital content can be had via P2P or direct download services. It should not be surprising that a huge underground sector has grown up to provide what is lacking legally. Even if it gets stomped out on the services discussed here, it will surely pop up elsewhere, probably in an even better form.

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  2. Hi Ryan, I think we should look to some of the people on the other side of the table to really asses who’s leading this part of the industry. At the video rights round table hosted by NewTeeVee/GigaOm last year, Betsy Zedek, Legal Counsel at Fox, commented specifically on Justin.tv’s work with copyright holders, as well as Livesteam’s. That video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRY56iAsIPw

    We’ll be writing a more detailed response on the Justin.tv blog shortly.

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  3. Gabriel Baryard Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    All of these people need to stop fighting the flow and come up with ways to start profiting from giving away things that are currently being taken for free whether they like it or not. It wasn’t so long ago that Youtube was deleting videos if they had copyrighted songs in them. Then one day a third grader suggested they use these songs in the videos as sales tools. Duh. Dear world, catch on.

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  4. This isn’t a stand by livestream against justin.tv and ustream, it’s a PR debacle and its fucking embarassing. Grow some balls.

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  5. @Gabriel
    Well said, brotha!

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  6. P.S.
    Who is LiveStream to call out competing, more successful sites about how they run their businesses? Maybe LiveStream should worry more about improving their own business and lowering costs so more people can use their services and less about the content of other sites.

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  7. [...] Read early press coverage on NewTeeVee: Livestream Calls Out Ustream and Justin.tv for Profiting Off of Piracy [...]

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  8. I have to agree with Gabriel, I can see Pay per veiw, etc. being an issue, but since these sites also allow pay per veiw, seems silly not to take advantage of it. I mean put some money in justin’s or ustream’s pocketbook and I bet things change quickly. But on the rest, how is someone rebroadcasting a stream off of a free tv channel that is supported by ad revenues really piracy in the strictest sense of the word, in that more eyeballs = more money. If the rebroadcast is not changed in any way (e.g. cutting commercials, etc..) should make everyone happy since they now have a potential world wide audience, maybe we should just change what our definition of piracy really is..

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  9. and we all know there is no ulterior motive for this announcement, right?

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  10. [...] today NewTeeVee, a popular blog that covers online media, wrote a post about live video and copyright [...]

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