Media Giants Team On Content Piracy Measures

Banded together by a mutual fear of Google and YouTube, a group of digital media heavyweights on Thursday issued a set of guidelines on copyright protection.

The group--including Viacom, Walt Disney, Microsoft, News Corp's Fox and MySpace units, and General Electric's NBC Universal--agreed to the use of technology to purge pirated content circulating online, and to stop such material before it becomes widely available.

"These principles offer a road map for unlocking the enormous potential of online video and user-generated content," Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement Thursday.

Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC Universal, offered tough words. "Today's announcement marks a significant step in transforming the Internet to a popular medium that respects the rule of law."

The guidelines include the "implementation of state of the art filtering technology with the goal to eliminate infringing content," "upgrading technology when commercially reasonable," and "cooperation in developing procedures for promptly addressing claims that content was blocked in error."

As a whole, however, they amount to what some analysts are calling a hasty response to new copyrighted content-filtration technology released by Google earlier this week.

"All this is, is an agreement to agree," said Forrester analyst James McQuivey. "They're already working with too many cooks in the kitchen, so they should have taken more time.

"This is simply a statement of what they've been saying all along," McQuivey added. "'This is our content and you [Google] should protect it vigorously.'"

Google was hoping that its content-fingerprinting technology would resolve any conflicts it had with content publishers and media companies--particularly Viacom, which sued the search giant in March for $1 billion over copyright infringement.

"We believe it goes beyond any legal disputes," Google attorney Philip Beck said regarding the technology, during a preliminary hearing for the Viacom trial in July.

Notably, Google's new content-fingerprinting technology does not yet allow the blocking of copyrighted content from being uploaded onto YouTube.

Along with MySpace, the industry group also includes online video service companies like Veoh Networks and Dailymotion.

"We're vigilant about respecting and protecting copyrights," Chris DeWolfe, CEO and co-founder of MySpace, said Thursday. "Internally, we've developed an industry-leading suite of copyright protections for content owners."

Rumors surfaced on Thursday to the effect that Google might be ready to join the coalition.

Said YouTube director of engineering Jeremy Doig: "We appreciate ideas from the various media companies on effective content identification technologies," adding, "We're glad that they recognize the need to cooperate on these issues, and we'll keep working with them to refine our industry-leading tools."

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