Warner Bros. is one of the first big media companies to strike a deal with YouTube--following NBC, which partnered with YouTube to create an official "NBC Channel" on the site in June. Warner Bros. was also one of the first record companies to use YouTube's new ad units to promote an upcoming album--in this case "Paris," the upcoming debut effort from the socialite-singer Paris Hilton.
The new Warner Bros.-YouTube revenue-sharing agreement gives YouTube access to a trove of popular music, including works by Ray Charles, Led Zeppelin, and Green Day. At the center of the deal is new proprietary technology that YouTube claims will allow it to identify video clips that incorporate copyrighted Warner Bros.' material by comparing audio patterns. YouTube and Warner Bros. will then split ad revenue produced by video clips using Warner Bros.' material. Few details about this technology were available as of Monday evening, but from its description in a YouTube statement, it's far more likely to be employed for ad hoc searches targeting particular content than to prevent all copyright infringement before it starts.
According to YouTube, the feature will allow content owners to use an "automated audio identification technology to locate their works within user videos on the site." However, by its own count, YouTube receives about 65,000 new videos of varying length per day. Given the sheer number of videos posted, the huge archive of original content users can draw on, and current technical limitations, this system could only be employed selectively.
Nonetheless, YouTube is pinning its hopes on the new feature, offering it to Warner Bros. and other studios that have yet to make a deal as a solution to copyright conflicts.
YouTube still faces potential copyright litigation from other companies. Universal Music Group last week publicly threatened to sue YouTube for tens of millions of dollars for copyright infringement. The companies currently are in talks.