Livestream Calls Out Ustream and Justin.tv for Profiting Off of Piracy

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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