People who try to post copyrighted videos on YouTube could confront a video recognition system as sophisticated as FBI fingerprint technology by this fall, according to a lawyer for the popular Web site.
YouTube, owned by Google Inc., is working "very intensely" on the technology and hopes to have it in place in September, lawyer Philip S. Beck told a federal judge in Manhattan who is presiding over copyright lawsuits.
Viacom International Inc. and England's top soccer league and an indie music publisher — The Football Association Premier League Ltd. and publisher Bourne Co. — have sued YouTube. The lawsuits have been combined for trial purposes.
The video recognition technology will allow those holding copyrights on videos to provide a digital fingerprint, so that if anyone tries to share a copyrighted video, the system will shut it down within a minute or so, Beck said in court Friday.
Beck said the company was counting on the software to "hopefully eliminate such disputes in the future." He said the company believes the new technology goes way beyond what the law requires to stop copyright infringement.
YouTube began only two years ago, when one of its two California founders sought a way to send videos of his children to relatives on the East Coast, Beck told U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton. Since 30 videos were exchanged in the site's first month, more than 10 million videos have been exchanged worldwide, including hundreds of thousands a day, he said.
Lawyers for plaintiffs in the lawsuits said they welcomed any improvement that would end what they charge is infringement of their copyrights. But they said they believed YouTube should have acted sooner.
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., a lawyer for Viacom, said it will take the next year to identify the extent of infringement that continues happening on "a very massive scale."
"Perhaps the filtering mechanism will help. If so, we'll be very grateful for that," he said.
Viacom sought $1 billion in damages for what it said was unauthorized viewing of programs from MTV, Comedy Central and other networks, such as "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." In their lawsuit, the soccer league and indie music publisher sought unspecified damages and any profits YouTube made as a result of the sharing of copyrighted videos.
YouTube said in response to the lawsuits that it goes beyond what is required under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which gives Web hosts protection from copyright lawsuits so long as they comply with requests to remove unauthorized material.
YouTube said it cooperates with holders of copyrights and immediately complies with requests to have unauthorized material removed from the site.