Copyright Bots a Growing Industry?

September 7, 2012

Wired has an article on the proliferation of digital fingerprinting technologies that identify and block allegedly infringing live video streams.  A number of recent streaming events – including Michelle Obama’s DNC speech – were erroneously blocked by these bots.  According to Wired,

 A swarm of tech companies are rushing in to provide technical solutions to enforce copyright in online sharing communities and video-streaming sites. Those players include Vobile, Attributor, Audible Magic, and Gracenote. And they’re thriving, despite the fact that U.S. copyright law, as modified by the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, doesn’t require sites that host user-created content to preemptively patrol for copyright violations.

Indeed, the Second Circuit held that the DMCA does not impose a duty on ISPs to affirmatively monitor for infringement:

§ 512(m) is incompatible with a broad common law duty to monitor or otherwise seek out infringing activity based on general awareness that infringement may be occurring Viacom Intern., Inc. v. YouTube, Inc., 676 F.3d 19, 35 (C.A.2 (N.Y.),2012)

Wired raises the logical concern of unfair, preemptive censorship but, how fast are these companies really proliferating? We had quite a bit of trouble figuring that out.  Interestingly,  Audible, Gracenote, and Digimarc, made their pitch in the Grokster case in a manner that might make ISPs take notice:

Amici file this brief in support of neither party in the case and further take no position on any of the legal issues in this case. Amici submit this brief to provide information to the Court about existing technologies that would in fact permit Respondents – despite the decentralized nature of their P2P file-trading networks – to identify and significantly diminish the copyright infringement they enable.  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 2005 WL 176436 (U.S.), 3 (U.S.,2005)

That’s effective marketing maybe but  numerous searches in the Investext databases (Analysts Reports) on Westlaw yield few results after 2009.  There appear to be no relevant, recent industry or company reports.  Our search strategy is below and we welcome your comments, as always.   Is it possible the early days of the Youtube/Viacom dispute triggered over-investment in these technologies?  Is this recent take-down activity merely a growing belt-and-suspenders strategy for ISPs driven by a few players? Or, is this truly a growing industry?




Here are portions of our Westlaw Research Trail and a description of our search strategy within the INVESTEXT-PDF databases.  There appear to be no relevant results after 2009.

Searches based on industry-related terms (These terms were largely garnered from briefs and trial court documents from the search referenced above.:

filter! block! /3 COPYRIGHT (37 Docs)

manag! /3 COPYRIGHT (370 Docs)

digital /3 identif! fingerprint! /s copyright (4 Docs)

digital /3 fingerprint! and copyright (24 Docs)

“digital content identification” (4 Docs)

Searches for key industry players within industry reports only:

(attributor) & rt(ir) (1 Doc)

(gracenote) & RT(IR) (7 Docs)

Search for company within all report types (company, industry, etc.):

na(audible /1 magic) & rt(cr ir gr tr) (31 Docs)

A simple advanced search for key industry players delivers a surprising number of results: adv: Vobile Attributor “Audible Magic” Gracenote: