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February 23, 2007

Audible Magic copyright checking at YouTube -- what took so long?

by Josh Bernoff

Audible_magic I've been talking occasionally with Audible Magic's CEO, Vance Ikezoye, for about four years now. The company makes software for identifying copyrighted content, and it has a track record. Which is why, as The San Jose Mercury News reported and TechCrunch blogged, it's going to be the new YouTube copyright checking system.

Audible Magic started out making software that CD duplicators use to verify the copyright status of discs they're about to manufacture. If you go to a duplicator and ask them make 10,000 CDs, they're going to first run it through AM's Replicheck software to make sure you've got the rights to your content. This works because AM has two key advantages.

  1. Every significant music distributor (and now film and video, too) sends its content to AM to be logged into the database. So AM's database is always up to date with millions and millions of files to compare.
  2. AM has (and has continually improved) "fingerprinting" technology that can recognize that content, even if you ripped it at a different bit rate, removed the first ten seconds, or recorded it off a jukebox at a bar.

Now Vance is smart, so once his company invented this they looked for other places to make use of it. They make an appliance that universities can use to detect and shut down file sharing. And lately, user-generated content sites have been licensing it, especially as AM begins to check for image and video, not just audio. Strangely, few of the companies will go on the record about where their checking comes from.

It's no surprise that YouTube will be using Audible Magic. It's one of two solutions -- GraceNote is the other -- that are ready now. They're not perfect, but there's nothing better out there. What's mystifying is why YouTube announced in September it would have checking in place by year-end, then missed its own deadline, and only now has figured out that duplicating the seven years of software development and content relationships at Audible Magic isn't easy.

Presumably, media companies will now have a choice about whether to allow their content to appear on YouTube or not. Most of them should allow it -- and take a cut of advertising. But if Google and YouTube want to keep working with media companies, this is what it will take to solve the copyright puzzle.

Let's get on with it.

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Hey Charlene

I caught your blog on Technorati. The Audible Magic software sounds like a good step for identifying music -- but what about licenses? What if the song is identified, and the user wants to get a license for a particular usage -- outside of YouTube or Revver, or wherever? It's all pretty confusing. I caught this summary
of the rights you need to clear on Shelly Palmner's blog:

It all sounds a bit too confusing to clear a song for my family video. ID-ing songs is one step -- but the next step is letting us pay a small fee to use them, legally.

- Hashi

Josh Bernoff

Thanks for your comment, Hashi. In this post, we're only talking about what Google-YouTube would have to do to allow publishing the song, which is complicated (as Shelly Palmer points out) but doable. It's far easier to just block it.

As for you getting legal rights to play it, distribute it, perform it, etc. it's a nasty tangle, just as you say.





It will be interesting to see how this stands up to the hackers.


Hi Charlene,

I think these systems are indeed usefull for a calculation of revenues to be shared between distribution plateforms and rights owner (and may be later: anyone, creating an added value on that).

As far as the entire internet is not under control, blocking content is not possible.

It may be possible to complexify the access of such content, or to complexify the possibility to post such contents.

But as internet is about ubiquity one site blocking content sees directly another one proposing it.

It is then necessary to make the old copyright system evolve radically.

They can delay the change but it is unavoidable. They will have to forget the old confortable situation to risk a new adventure where they can anyway generate a lot of business.

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