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Google shakes empty YouTube piggy bank

Hopes to convince rights holders Content ID is king

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Lube up tubes for rights holders

Wiseman says YouTube typically scans 100 years of video every day for potential copyright violations, and that process is now carried out before a clip is published on the site.

"It slows the system down a bit," admits Wiseman. "We’ve worked pretty hard to make sure we’re as fast as we can. It may add 10 or 15 seconds to that process but we’re still doing OK with that."

But he declines to comment on how many copyright infringements occur on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, Google is hunting high and low for more rights holders to sign up to its free Content ID system within YouTube. To date it has a fairly impressive line-up on its books: typical partners include media players such as Channel 4, sports channels like ECB and the Olympics and record labels including the 'Big Four'.

The latter part of that important ad-generating equation didn't come without a nasty fight, however.

Warner Music only came back to YouTube after a nine-month blockade over licensing. The music label agreed in September 2009 to reinstate its full roster to Google's video sharing site in return for more control and a larger cut of advertising.

The accord gave Warner the right to sell its own ads on "enhanced" channels devoted to WMG artists as well as against user-generated videos using WMG songs in their soundtrack. But here's the interesting bit behind that deal and many others like it: ad revenue is shared with YouTube, with WMG keeping the bulk of the cash.

Returning to YouTube's Content ID, the outfit is currently picking its way through one million reference files provided by those 1,000 big name rights holders that Wiseman talks so positively about.

“We’ve rolled it out in a scaled way and we want to get to the point where any user can sign up to use this system. We’re not quite there yet but we’re certainly interested in it,” he says.

Creepily, for YouTube users at least, content owners using the system gain access to viewing metrics that include demographics, the location of the uploader, how the video was found and something YouTube has dubbed as "hotspots", which shows what part of a video clip was the most popular segment.

"We have these great tools in place but content owners need to partner with us," says Wiseman. "We need the original reference to be able to compare against content uploaded on our site."

In other words, cooperation is vital to help keep Google out of legal hot water. That's perhaps the best Mountain View can hope for from an operation it bought in 2006 for $1.65bn, which still shies away from delivering bags - or even just a single bag - of cash to its owners.

"I’m looking at numbers and we’re claiming large amounts of content and licensing it on behalf of rights holders, sharing the revenue and the revenue is flowing," claims Wiseman, who isn't willing to share any figures with us.

"We’re certainly on the path to profitability, we’ve started to generate significant revenues for our partners and are helping advertisers engage with our users, and it’s a very exciting time." ®

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