Nothing to See Here: YouTube’s “New” Copyright Tech

Certain publications are all a-flutter today with talk that Google and YouTube “could one day enable content owners to insert ads into unauthorized video clips wherever they might be posted online,” an assertion made in a report at CNET. We even picked up the story in our morning news roundup. One problem: YouTube already has this product live, and has for nine months.

From our report on YouTube’s video identification tools launch last October (emphasis added):

The onus will be on rights holders to upload versions of their copyrighted videos into a database, after which YouTube will identify near matches and pull them for review. Within the system, publishers will be able to choose to block such content, but also to monetize it via ads or promote it.

So no, this doesn’t mean a change for YouTube’s protection under the DMCA safe harbors, at least not since October. YouTube’s policy is to screen uploads to see if they match content it has in its database. In part to try to keep itself within copyright law, and also because it gets so much video, YouTube does not screen content *before* posting it on the site. But the site doesn’t include new uploads in search indexes until they go through the fingerprinting tool.

Just to make sure we weren’t imagining things, we checked with our sources, who confirmed that CNET’s description is indeed the same thing as YouTube’s existing product.

What’s new and different about YouTube’s recent Lionsgate deal, and hopefully indicative of future friendlier relations between YouTube and Hollywood, is that Lionsgate seems to be encouraging fans to upload clips of its movies. That’s a pretty big shift considering other copyright holders sue their fans for unauthorized distribution of their work. We don’t disbelieve CNET’s report that other big media companies are in discussions with YouTube for similar deals; Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the exact same thing last week.