Nielsen To Offer Copyright Protection System For The Web - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management

Nielsen To Offer Copyright Protection System For The Web

The software would first be used for policing the use of TV programs, clips of which are often posted on user-generated content sites, such as YouTube.

Nielsen, best-known for its rankings of TV programming, said Wednesday it is developing a system that would police Web sites for copyrighted material, and notify site owners and content providers when video has been posted without authorization.

Nielsen is developing the system with Digimarc, a provider of digital watermarking technology. The service, which the companies plan to start rolling out in the second quarter of next year, would tap into technology Nielson currently uses in the services it sells to advertisers and TV networks.

The system would first be used for policing the use of TV programs, clips of which are often posted on user-generated content sites, such as YouTube, which is owned by Google. Much of that content is uploaded without authorization or compensation to the content provider, which has led to tension between Internet companies and Hollywood studios. These tensions reached a peak in March when Viacom filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of massive copyright infringement.

The Nielsen/Digimarc system would be offered as a way to quickly discover unauthorized content on sites. To do that, the system would leverage Nielsen's existing watermark technology, which is used on more than 95% of TV programming distributed today. The watermarks are used by the meters installed in people's home to identify the programs they watch. Nielsen sells data from people's viewing habits to TV networks and advertisers.

Besides watermarking, Nielsen also tags over-the-air TV programs intercepted by 700 installations across the nation. For those programs without watermarks, Nielsen creates a digital signature based on unique patterns in the audio signal.

Nielsen's watermarks and digital signatures are stored in a database that would be used in the copyright-protection system. When a clip is posted on a Web site, the system would search for the watermark. If one doesn't exist, then the system would create a digital signature. In either case, the identifier would be compared to what's in the database to find a match. Once the program is identified, the Nielsen system could notify site operators and content providers when a clip is being shown without authorization.

While the system wouldn't automatically delete unauthorized material, Web site owners could configure their systems to take that step. "The purpose of this system is not to be a policeman on the Internet, but to provide a system where the content provider can have confidence and knowledge of where their programming is being distributed," Dave Harkness, senior VP of strategy and business development at Nielsen, told InformationWeek. "They also can develop a business relationship with the content distributor, which in this case is the Web site."

Nielsen is confident it can convince many TV producers to buy into the system, since the company already has relationships with most of these businesses. Convincing Web sites may be more difficult, since many already have some kind of copyright-protection system in place or are developing one. Google, for example, is developing a system for YouTube. In general, most sites take down unauthorized content as soon as the owners notify them.

Nielsen believes it can turn many sites into customers by offering a system that's ready to plug into their infrastructure, saving them the cost of building a copyright-protection system themselves, Harkness said. Besides generating revenue from the service, Nielson could also use it to track the use of video on the Web and sell the gathered data to advertisers.

If Nielsen launches its service it will have competitors, albeit smaller businesses. Those companies that provide services for policing the use of copyrighted content online include Audible Magic, Vobile, and BayTSP.

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