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French high court thumps Google Video

Video fingerprints! Or else!

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A French high court has added some extra spice to the legal debate over online video sharing.

In mid-October, the High Court of the First Instance of Paris issued a ruling against Google Video after it was sued by a Paris-based film company called Zadig Productions. Naturally, Zadig was peeved that Google was hosting one of its films, and the court slapped the web giant for copyright infringement.

Yes, we've seen this before. In July, as reported on The Reg, the same court issued a similar ruling against Dailymotion, the French answer to YouTube that recently expanded operations into the States. But this time, there's a new twist.

The High Court of the First Instance of Paris ruled that once a video sharer is notified that it's hosting a copyrighted clip, it's not just obliged to remove the clip. It's obliged to prevent the clip from being re-posted - by anyone.

"The crux of the decision is that once hosting providers have been notified of illegal content, they are obliged to make sure that it does not reappear on their site," says French lawyer Brad Spitz, in a blog post on the decision.

"Where the hosting provider is informed of the existence of an illegal content, it will either have to implement all necessary means to prevent a further user from putting the same content on line, or be able to prove that effective means were implemented in order to prevent such content being placed on the site."

Last April, Zadig complained to Brin, Page, and company that Google Video was illegally hosting one of its copyrighted films, a documentary called "Tranquillity Bay". Google removed the film and politely informed Zadig that it had done so.

In France, just as in the US, such a response protects Google from liability. The French have a statute very similar the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

But other Google Video users repeatedly re-posted the film, and though Google continued to remove it, Zadig eventually sued, arguing that Google done too little to keep the film offline.

The court ordered Google to fork over €30,000, arguing that the once the web giant had been notified that the film had been posted, it had to make sure that it wasn't posted again. "The court said that Google had not proven that it implemented all measures necessary to prevent people from re-posting," Spitz told us. "It's a bit harsh on hosting providers."

How long is a video sharer required to prevent re-posts? The court doesn't say. "The decision doesn't talk about a time frame," Spitz explained. "But obviously, the obligation isn't forever."

In essence, the court is requiring video sharers to implement a strict video fingerprinting system that can identify clips before their posts. This fall, a Google video sharing service with a much higher profile - that would be YouTube - rolled out such a fingerprintng system, but we've yet to see one on Google Video.

"We have launched Video Identification on YouTube only, but we expect to implement the technology on Google Video in the future," Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker told us. "Google Video has an entirely different infrastructure, so it is not a simple plug-and-play to extend this technology.

"Our first priority is to successfully deploy and scale the technology on YouTube and to build a substantial reference database. Once we've accomplished that, we would like to make the technology available on Google Video as well." ®

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