Battling Piracy, BayTSP-Style

NBC Universal (GE) President Jeff Zucker wants more technological solutions to be used in the battle to combat piracy, and is specifically calling on ISPs, video-sharing sites, universities and others to implement better filtering systems. But until — and even if — that happens, content companies will have to rely on the services of copyright monitoring and enforcement services like BayTSP.

You may remember BayTSP from a profile The Wall Street Journal did a couple months back (BayTSP is retained by Viacom (VIA) in its hunt for pirates). I got in touch with the company to get an update on what it’s doing to thwart online video piracy, and how it’s adapting to the changing tactics of copyright infringers.

“On an average day, there are 16 million violations that we’re finding,” said BayTSP spokesman Jim Graham. Of that, one million violations a month receive takedown notices. “Not all clients want to send takedown notices,” said Graham. “A lot just want to see the data on what’s available out there.”

Here’s how BayTSP works. A client gives it a list of titles (movies, TV shows, etc.) to monitor. BayTSP’s automated hardware then sniffs around major P2P sites, IRC, Usenet groups, public FTP sites and web sites and reports back its findings.

For P2P sites, if a title is found and the client wants to have it removed, BayTSP automatically generates a takedown notice that records the individual’s IP address, date and time identified, and sends it off to the ISP. The ISP then forwards the notice to the individual. Some ISPs and universities are adopting the open source Automated Copyright Notice System to automate the process of notifying infringers.

And streamline it does. “We’ve seen stuff go down within two hours of a takedown notice being sent,” said Graham.

But what does all this cost? Between $25,000 and $500,000 a month, depending on how many titles you are searching and what services you want performed.

And those services must adapt as infringers get more creative in the ways they post. For instance, BayTSP used to be able to search YouTube for just the title (e.g. Spider-Man 3). After being foiled, posters would switch to randomly generated names and create a link on a popular blog like Movie6. And people now use their Sling boxes to post live streaming TV, mostly targeted to live sporting events.

One tactic that BayTSP has implemented is going after first posters. BayTSP will identify the first person posting copyright-infringing materials on services such as eDonkey. “If you are the first person to post, we’ll guarantee that we’ll find you and you’ll get sued,” said Graham.

Of course, there are grey areas, and a takedown notice is not always needed. Some clips, for example, might be legal under the fair use provision. So then what? “We have a staff of people running 24 hours a day,” Graham said. “If a clip falls into a grey area, it’s reviewed by two people here and might go to the client for a third look.”

In terms of where people are putting stuff, China is currently hot, said Graham, as they “think it’s harder to find.” In fact, the company is meeting with ISPs in China. “We’re expecting to see greater enforcement in Asia because of the Olympics,” he said.

The same Olympics that are being broadcast by Zucker’s NBC.