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Just An Online Minute... YouTube To Test System That Spots Copyrighted Clips

YouTube is ready to start testing a new "video fingerprinting" technology that theoretically identifies copyrighted clips and prevents them from appearing on the site.

The test is slated to begin in a month with Time Warner, Walt Disney and other companies, according to press reports.

If the technology works, it potentially ends some of the feuding between YouTube and media companies like Viacom, which has a lawsuit pending against the site for copyright infringement. But the technology also raises a whole new set of questions, including whether clips that make "fair use" of copyrighted material will be filtered out of the site.

Of course, YouTube and other companies are free to reject any clips they wish, but it's still troubling to consider that perfectly lawful material might end up banned simply because it makes use of some copyrighted video to criticize or make another point.

Already, some of the most bitterly contested disputes deal with what constitutes a "fair use" of copyrighted material. Just this week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation moved to dismiss a complaint filed by paranormalist Uri Geller against debunker Brian Sapient, who posted a clip to YouTube that uses around eight seconds of copyrighted material.

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"Uri Geller does not like critics," states the EFF in its legal papers. "In fact, he dislikes them so much that he will employ almost any means -- including sending unlawful copyright takedown notices and filing frivolous lawsuits ... in order to silence them."

One scary thought is that now, it's possible that Uri Geller and anyone else who doesn't like critics won't take to the courts to silence them. Rather, the technology might do that for them.

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