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10/24/2006
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Analysis: YouTube Users Beware

YouTube is starting to make it easier for major media companies to clamp down on users who upload videos with copyright violations.

YouTube users who post copyrighted material are more likely to become defendants in very expensive lawsuits as the video site makes it easier for major media companies to find and remove their protected property, legal experts said Tuesday.

YouTube, which is in the process of being acquired by search engine giant Google, has never claimed to protect copyright violators. But at the same time, it has allowed users to post TV clips, music videos and other content stolen from media companies. As a policy, the site takes down videos at the request of copyright holders.

This strategy, along with easy-to-use technology for posting, viewing and sharing videos, has helped propel the company in almost two years from a blip on the Web to one of the largest video sites with 34 million unique visitors in August, according to Nielsen NetRatings.

But as YouTube tries to turn its money-losing operation into a revenue generator, the company is moving quickly toward cleaning up the site, and playing nicely with major content providers.

YouTube recently removed nearly 30,000 videos at the request of the Japan Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers. It also has signed content deals with major media companies, including Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group Corp., Sony BMG and CBS Corp. In addition, the site has agreed to provide by the end of the year software tools content providers can use to find copyrighted material and have it removed.

The combination of signing up content providers and giving them the weaponry to battle copyright violators goes a long way to avoiding a crippling lawsuit, legal experts say. However, the trend toward a cleaned up YouTube is bad news for users who have found great pleasure in sharing their favorite TV skit, or using popular tunes as the background to a home movie.

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