Many of the world's leading Internet and media companies, including CBS Corp., Dailymotion, Fox Entertainment Group, Microsoft Corp., MySpace, NBC Universal, Veoh Networks Inc., Viacom Inc. and The Walt Disney Company, have pledged their support to a set of collaborative principles that are designed to foster the growth and development of user-generated content online while at the same time protecting the intellectual property of content owners. The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that Google, owners of the biggest video-sharing site on the planet, YouTube, is strangely absent. Well, perhaps not so strangely given that both Google and YouTube are currently facing a $1 billion copyright infringement suit filed by Viacom Inc which has signed the User Generated Content principles (UGC) agreement.

In what many people are seeing as an attempt to bring DRM into the online video-sharing space, the UGC principles set out a comprehensive set of guidelines to assist publishers and content creators alike to produce more content through legitimate channels. The principles call for a broad range of constructive and cooperative efforts by copyright owners and UGC services, including:

  • Implementation of state of the art filtering technology with the goal to eliminate infringing content on UGC services, including blocking infringing uploads before they are made available to the public.
  • Upgrading technology when commercially reasonable.
  • Cooperating to ensure that the technology is implemented in a manner that effectively balances legitimate interests, including fair use.
  • Cooperation in developing procedures for promptly addressing claims that content was blocked in error.
  • Regularly using the technology to remove infringing content that was uploaded before the technology could block it.
  • Identification and removal of links to sites that are clearly dedicated to, and predominantly used for, the dissemination of infringing content.
  • Promotion of content-rich, infringement-free services by continuing to cooperatively test new technologies and by collaboratively updating these principles as appropriate to keep current with evolving developments.

Bob Iger, President and CEO, The Walt Disney Company told us "These principles offer a road map for unlocking the enormous potential of online video and user-generated content. Cooperation among us, aided by emerging technologies, can clear the way for further growth in the availability of online video in ways that will be good for consumers, good for copyright owners and good for uploading services." While Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corporation added "The cross-industry dialogue that resulted in these principles is an important step forward in establishing the Internet as a great platform for video content - a platform that allows services to innovate and preserves incentives for all creators, big and small, by respecting copyright. With this new, consensus-based foundation, the technology and entertainment industries are demonstrating how we can work collaboratively to build great new video experiences for our mutual customers." And Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation said "The cornerstone of the CBS business is its audience. CBS believes that these principles will assist us in our on-going online delivery to our audience of all the great CBS content, and will help balance the rights and responsibilities of both content owners and sites accepting user generated content. I applaud the cooperation among the participating online operators and the networks."

Despite our request for a comment, Google remained silent on the matter. Although some media sector analysts seem to believe that if the UGC principles become an accepted standard Google will have no choice but to join at some point, if you removed all the potential copyright infringing material from YouTube the service would suffer in terms of user popularity. Indeed, Google has just this week revealed details of a new technology which it says allows content owners to automate copyright identification on YouTube, but rather tellingly it does not enable the automatic uploading blocking of such copyrighted content.

Of course, there is another argument to all this which isn't getting much air time at present: is the quality of the copyrighted content being uploaded to such sites actually of a level that is worth protecting?

There is no reason why google should be made to sign something put into place by these other companies many of which are either compeditors or in the case of microsoft, self appointed rivals. I'm wondering if Google/Youtube was even offered a chance to get in on this agreement.

That is the thing about many standards or standard practices. They are only developed to benefit certain people or organisations and and increasing becoming less independed and autonomous.

Google, at least right now, is making money hand-over-fist. Given that, and assuming they don't think they have any reason to believe they won't continue to dramatically increase their profits over the reasonably foreseeable future, why would they sign on to such a limiting set of guidelines?
If it were me, and thankfully it's not, I'd toss Viacom their little billion and tell them and the rest to shut up and stuff it, and I'd just keep rolling. Of course, that probably doesn't make good business sense, but if I'm raking in several billion bucks every year, I'm not gonna have the discipline to care a whole lot about business sense (stockholders might not agree though, LOL).
Microsoft, in particular, seems to always me about "standards" if it keeps others from beating them (or benefits them directly), but when they have a lead, it's always about their "right to innovate". I don't blame them though. Like everyone else, they are looking out for Google probably feels it is doing by avoiding this mishmash