MySpace, MTV Look for Piracy’s Silver Lining

MySpace, MTV Networks and online ad platform Auditude are teaming up to try and squeeze money out of pirated video — content distributed online without the permission of the rights holder.

The trio’s plan is to identify online pirated video clips, slap an ad overlay on top of them as they play, and monetize their use, returning a portion of the proceeds back to the copyright holders. If, for example, a MySpace user posts a funny clip of Jon Stewart from “The Daily Show” on the social networking site, rather than demand the clip be removed at once, MTV might allow it to stay — if it can hang an ad on it.

Media giants have been waging a long and costly battle over copyrighted clips posted on sharing sites like YouTube, MySpace, and blogs — just about everywhere an end user with an Internet connection can post a clip. They’ve sent out reams of DMCA notices trying to get the clips removed. Sites usually comply, but the sheer number of users who continue to post such content makes it difficult to stamp out the problem using takedown notices alone.

There have been some alternative solutions., for example, publishes video clips from popular television shows via network television partnerships. Those clips, in turn, can be published in end-user blogs, which encourages everyday Internet Joes to use Hulu clips instead of their own — often poorly copied — versions.

MySpace + Auditude = Money?

MySpace is using a new platform from Auditude to automatically identify any uploaded video clip from shows produced by MTV Networks. Once identified, MySpace will display an overlay when the clip is played that shows which episode the clip originally came from, its original air-date, and links to online stores where users can buy the entire episode.

Auditude says it can identify clips using “fingerprints” taken from the clip’s audio and video data, which the company’s Auditude platform then matches via a database of known video fingerprints. Auditude’s database currently spans more than 250 million videos and four years of television content, all sorted by show and air date.

The company says it can even identify a clip that’s only a few seconds long, and it ignores end-user tagging information, which is often inaccurate or non-descriptive.

The Death of DRM?

While such a solution might seem like a death knell for video DRM, it may still be too early for networks to walk away from their copyright protection efforts completely. Not only are there many other networks that would need to get on board with Auditude’s solution — or create their own — but there are also plenty of other sites that would need to cooperate in order for such a solution to be effective, not the least of which is video clip world leader YouTube.

“This is not to say you throw out all these issues regarding copyrighted content and filtering and the need to do that, but at the same time that’s happening, why not look to find a revenue-positive, revenue-generating way to take advantage of this user behavior that’s already out there?” Mike McGuire, a vice president of media research for Gartner, told the E-Commerce Times.

“It’s not that these users are trying to upload a video clip and pretend that it’s their creative work — it’s consumers finding stuff they like and trying to personalize their page or share it with their friends by using the video clip,” he explained.

“Why not find a way to monetize it rather than sit there and constantly play this game of tracking it down, pulling it off, etc.?” he added. Such user behavior will continue, he said, and to date, there hasn’t been a good way to solve the problem without poisoning the experience for end users.

“I think this is going to be an important step, and I think you’ll see more than a few other folks follow this example,” he said.

Auditude said it expects to see other networks form similar partnerships while Auditude works to get its platform solution implemented on other sites.

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