Space Ramblings

The Myth of Video Fingerprints

Google Inc.’s YouTube hopes recognition technology will be in place in September to stop the posting of copyrighted videos on the popular Web site, a lawyer Friday told a judge presiding over copyright lawsuits.

The lawyer, Philip S. Beck, told U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton in Manhattan that YouTube was working “very intensely and cooperating” with major content providers on a video recognition technology as sophisticated as fingerprint technology the FBI uses. He said the company planned to have the technology in place in the fall, “hopefully in September.”

Sometimes when you see someone telling major whoppers, you don’t know whether to feel sorry for them, laugh or be outraged. I’ll probably settle for laughter because considering how many judges have demonstrated that they can’t tell a modem from a mouse, Judge Stanton probably has no clue of the absurdity of that statement.

YouTube is not cooperating with anyone. No technology is going to be as sophisticated as fingerprinting and fingerprinting for that matter is an art not a science. You cannot simply do with fingerprints what you do on TV, feed some data into a computer and announce an instant match. Fingerprint matching is an art carried out by professional analysts who examine a print and then match it up based on existing patterns. Computers can call up and focus on those patterns but they cannot and will not do the work for you.

The fingerprint analogy should be a depressing one since the prospects of producing technology that can clean up YouTube is nil. A technology that can identify some copyrights, sure. A technology that were each video embedded with DRM the way MP3’s are, could pick out ones with broken or subverted DRM or DRM that forbids uploading, sure. But a technology that can automatically distinguish all copyrighted material is science fiction. Google knows it. The labels know it. No idea if YouTube’s lawyer or the court knows it but everyone else does.

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