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Rules set for online video

From the Associated Press

A coalition of major media and Internet companies Thursday issued a set of guidelines for handling copyright-protected videos on large user-generated sites such as MySpace.

Conspicuously absent was Google Inc., whose YouTube site this week rolled out its own technology to filter copyrighted videos once they’ve been posted.

Media companies Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc., CBS Corp., NBC Universal and News Corp. -- owner of MySpace -- joined Internet companies Microsoft Corp., Veoh Networks Inc. and Dailymotion to issue the guidelines, which would require sites to use filtering technology to block copyrighted clips from being posted without permission.

The incentive for the coalition’s websites and others to comply is the media companies’ promise not to sue if any copyrighted material sneaks past their best efforts to block it.

“Today’s announcement marks a significant step in transforming the Internet from a Wild West to a popular medium that respects the rule of law,” NBC Universal President and Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said in a statement. “By recognizing the mutual benefits of a technology-based framework to control piracy, technology and content companies have laid the foundation for the lawful growth of video on the Internet.”

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Internet attorney Andrew Bridges of the San Francisco firm Winston & Strawn called the guidelines more of a treaty than a contract, noting that the coalition members specifically stated that the guidelines did not preclude any company from seeking legal remedies in a dispute.

“These principles may be a noteworthy attempt to reach some common ground that could minimize friction, and minimizing friction is good for everybody except the lawyers,” Bridges said.

The guidelines, which do not apply to search engines, e-mail or browsers, are designed for sites that host user-generated clips -- like YouTube.

YouTube, which is being sued by Viacom for allowing copyrighted videos to be posted on its site, announced its long-awaited filtering technology Monday.

That technology would identify unauthorized content after it was posted on the site, then take steps to remove it.

In contrast, Thursday’s guidelines require that sites block offending clips before they are posted online.

The guidelines also require websites to identify other sites that repeatedly try to upload unauthorized content and either block or remove links to them.

Media representatives who asked not to be quoted said Google had initially participated in discussions but later decided not to be part of the coalition.

The new guidelines require Internet companies to have in place by the end of 2007 filtering software that blocks all content that media companies flag as being unauthorized.

The guidelines also require that user-generated video sites keep their filtering technology up to date, and they call for cooperation between media and Web companies to allow “wholly original” user-generated videos to be posted and to accommodate “fair use” of copyrighted material as allowed under law.


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