Copyright software pegs illegal uploads in seconds

NEC has figured out a way to sniff out copyrighted online videos accurately, and in little time.

The technology works kind of like a watermark, creating a signature in each video that can be identified by reading just 60 frames — or roughly two seconds — of the video. But NEC says its method is superior to existing technology because it can tell if a movie’s been edited and it only needs a tiny snippet to identify the file. And of course, it’s much faster than getting some copyright cops to manually hunt down videos online.

Copyright software pegs illegal uploads in seconds

Detection accuracy for copyrighted video is 96 percent with NEC’s method, and only one out of 20,000 detections is a false positive, NEC says. The technology will be part of MPEG-7 signatures, which NEC says is an international standard for video identification. NEC doesn’t specify in its press release whether the technology can be used for streaming video, BitTorrent files, or both.

The other unanswered question is who will actually do the searching with NEC’s technology. Strangely, the press release mentions “compatibility with home PCs.” Does that mean rights holders will somehow push to get this technology integrated into movie playback software or Web applications? The most we’ve got to go on is this sentence: “Looking forward, NEC will further develop this technology in order to provide a variety of applications that establish a content distribution structure where all video rights are respected.”

People who don’t download or watch pirated video content should be concerned with this technology, because with the ability to crack down on two-second video clips comes a threat to Fair Use. We know the MPAA isn’t very tolerant of Fair Use, having once suggested that classroom teachers avoid ripping DVDs by videotaping television playback instead. I can’t imagine NEC’s system would give Fair Use the benefit of the doubt. That frightens me more than anything else.