Autonomy Opens New Front in War on Piracy
| by Reuters |
Autonomy Corp. unveiled software on Wednesday that scours the Web to detect copyrighted video, giving media companies new power to combat illegal uploading of TV programs on sites such as YouTube.
Mike Lynch, Autonomy's chief executive, said the provider of corporate search software's new Automatic Copyright Infringement Detection (ACID) technology could transform the stalemate over how to fight copyright infringement on the Web.
At a news conference in San Francisco, Autonomy unveiled its patented software for analyzing massive amounts of video images or associated audio to detect copyright breaches anywhere on the Web.
ACID, which was developed by the Virage video surveillance business that Autonomy acquired in 2003, is software that functions as if millions of people were put to work simultaneously monitoring the exploding amount of video material on the Web.
"It watches the video, like a human being," Lynch told reporters.
In effect, a broadcaster can turn ACID loose across its channels and create an automated archive of copyrighted programming that can instantly test for Web piracy.
Media companies such as Viacom Inc., the owner of MTV, South Park and The Colbert Report, complain they cannot keep pace with the sheer amount of piracy of their programs, which can run on sites such as YouTube minutes after broadcast.
This frustration boiled over last month when the media conglomerate filed a lawsuit seeking more than $1 billion from Google Inc. and its video-sharing site YouTube alleging unauthorized use of its copyrighted entertainment.
"This software throws a big grenade into that debate because it is now technically possible to rifle through a large amount of video," Lynch told Reuters in an interview.
"The issue will be whether Web sites want to find the copyrighted material or they don't," he said.
Autonomy supplies technology used by many of the world's largest media companies who use it to organize, track and search through data and multimedia assets. Current customers include AOL, BBC, HBO, Martha Stewart, Reuters and Viacom.
Lynch said several big media customers already use ACID to track usage of their multimedia assets. He declined to name the companies. On its broadest scale, the software could cost upward of several hundred thousand dollars per client.
Autonomy also is the top provider of search software within organizations, helping office workers find both structured and unstructured information, including audio, video, e-mail and phone call records.
Norway's Fast Search and Transfer is Autonomy's main competitor, but Google has shot into third place in the market.
The product could transform the cat-and-mouse game that now exists between video programmers and Web users who take advantage of digital technology's inherent ease of duplication. Copyrighted video material as short as 10-seconds in length can be tracked, Lynch said.
Another failing of current software tools is that every time an instance of pirated video is discovered, users simply need to change the title of the video or slightly alter the image to render the effort to thwart such piracy meaningless.
Lynch said that because Autonomy's software focuses literally on the images on the screen and the audio, it is not confused by simple tricks like renaming the video or subtly changing the color balance of the image.
"There is an underground language video pirates use to disguise their work," Lynch said. "It is not relying on searching any metadata or tagging because people are getting clever about that now."
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