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Google Plans Video Identification Test For YouTube Next Month

Google and its partners such as Disney and Time Warner are looking to prevent the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted content.

Google confirmed Tuesday that it is about to begin testing video identification software on its YouTube and Google Video sites to identify copyrighted videos that users have uploaded without the copyright holder's consent.

Google has been using Audible Magic's audio fingerprinting technology to identify copyrighted music since the beginning of the year.

The company now is "trying to see if there is a way to make video identification technology a reality," said Ricardo Reyes, a spokesperson for Google. "We're going to start testing that on a larger scale in July with some pretty large partners."

Among Google's partners count Disney and Time Warner, both of which have an interest in preventing the unauthorized distribution of their respective films.

In contrast to Google's audio identification system, its video identification system comes from technology developed in-house at both YouTube and Google Video.

Reyes characterizes the test as a very early beta. "We pretty cautious on trying to predict when and if we're going to have success with this," he said, noting that the key issue is whether the technology can work on a massive scale.

According to Reyes, Google would prefer to refine the technology before announcing it. He said the reason that Google has been open about its video identification research is to dispel some of the misconceptions about Google's attitude toward copyright.

In March, Viacom, the parent company of MTV, Comedy Central, and Paramount Pictures, filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google and YouTube for "massive copyright infringement of Viacom's entertainment properties."

Google has faced, and continues to face, other copyright lawsuits from newspaper and book publishers.

Reyes, however, insists that Google's pursuit of video identification technology isn't an allergic reaction to lawsuits. Rather, it represents Google's ongoing commitment to the rights of copyright holders. "This something we have been committed to since before we were sued," said Reyes.

The potential benefits of video identification technology go beyond lawsuit avoidance. If Google can successfully identify video content based on image analysis, its video search capabilities may improve and it may be able to eliminate duplicate videos across its Web sites, thereby saving storage space.

"This is a tool set that we've tried hard to have ...and this is by no means the end," said Reyes.

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