Watchdog group eyes YouTube

The National Legal and Policy Center criticizes YouTube's business practices and calls on owner Google to do more to protect copyright holders.Hollywood's YouTube frustration grows
Written by Greg Sandoval, Contributor
For weeks, Ken Boehm blanketed the Internet as he hunted for video clips.

But the former prosecutor is no YouTube fan. Boehm is chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, an independent watchdog group known for digging up corruption in the nation's capital.

The NLPC is perhaps best known for uncovering wrongdoing in a $21 billion deal between the Air Force and Boeing in 2003 that resulted in jail time for two Boeing executives. The group is looking beyond the Beltway and has begun examining copyright violations at Google, which owns the YouTube video-sharing site.

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Hollywood's YouTube frustration grows
Media execs are increasingly peeved about delays in Google's promised copyright filtering tech.

Media companies are pressing Google to do more to stop users from uploading snippets of movies and TV shows. Many of YouTube's competitors have already adopted filtering technologies that screen pirated material. Content creators (see main story) have begun to demand that Google do the same.

"Many millions of dollars in intellectual property is being taken without the knowledge or approval of the property owners," said Boehm, 58. "Google has forced these property owners into a position of chasing their own content on YouTube, a sort of Whac-A-Mole effect. Ultimately there has to be a fairer way to do this."

Most of the criticism of Google and YouTube on this issue has come from big media conglomerates. It is believed that the NLPC is one of the first independent organizations to weigh in on the side on the copyright holders.

The donor-funded Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which advocates for the public on digital rights issues, has argued for a long time that YouTube executives follow the letter of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by removing violations as soon as they are informed of them by copyright holders.

"The law recognizes that copyright owners are in a much better position to police their own content than are Web hosting sites like YouTube," Google said in a statement.

Boehm said at this point he only wants to "stir up whatever trouble I can to get the attention of folks."

In his first move, he has compiled a list of more than 125 full-length feature films and TV shows that, according to his estimates, cost copyright owners about $150 million. His list includes Warner Bros' Blood Diamond, Paramount Pictures' Juice and NBC's The Office.

The film studios and TV network confirmed that the links provided by Boehm were to pirated content.

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