YouTube Finally Launches Video ID Tool

YouTube today beta-launched its longawaited video filtering technology, which will be included in a content management system available to all publishers, regardless of their commercial arrangements with the site.

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. YouTube will not check to make sure video uploads are in the clear before including them in its system, but it won’t not add them in search indexes until they’ve successfully passed through the copyright system, either.

YouTube has tested the product with nine media companies, of which it would only name Time Warner (TWX) and Disney (DIS), but it also offered Hearst-Argyle (HTV) and CBS Interactive (CBS) as examples in a press briefing at its headquarters on Monday. Google is facing a band of companies suing it for copyright infringement, led by Viacom (VIA.B), which is claiming damages in excess of $1 billion.

Explaining the delays since Google (GOOG) first promised to deploy such a system after purchasing YouTube last year, YouTube product manager David King said the technology was “extremely complex,” and had been in development “for a number of years” — even prior to the YouTube acquisition — as part of Google Research. YouTube insisted it is the first company to deploy such technology on any significant scale.

While the video identification program, which relies on image recognition, was developed internally, YouTube continues to use Audible Magic for audio fingerprinting, according to King. He said that while Audible Magic is effective for identifying music content contained in videos, it was not applicable for much of the site. Indeed, NewTeeVee had written earlier this year in an investigative report that Audible Magic did not seem particularly effective for blocking repeat uploads of television programs.

Video sites such as Microsoft’s (MSFT) Soapbox, MySpace, and Dailymotion also use Audible Magic for audio fingerprinting. Last week, Paris-based Dailymotion said it was employing Ina, a digital image bank, to detect copyrighted videos on the French version of its site. We’ve also covered many other fingerprinting providers, including Vobile, Activated Content, Autonomy, MotionDSP, iPharro, and Gracenote.

YouTube General Counsel Zahavah Levine said YouTube’s video identification system was “very effective” when exact copies of files were uploaded, but YouTube would not specify how effective it is in other circumstances. The company did demo two examples of a copyrighted video with text overlaid and a copyrighted video taped off a television set that were both detected. Levine said that the system will alert uploaders if their content has been removed for copyright considerations and give them the opportunity to contest the decision. She would not specify what YouTube considers fair use.