MySpace-MTV Deal Signals Step Forward In Copyright Clash

Just in time for Election Day, MySpace members have been granted a small, but significant, new freedom: They can now upload copyrighted content from any of Viacom’s MTV Networks without fear of penalty.

In fact, both MTV and MySpace are hoping members fill their pages with as much of the networks’ copyrighted content as they can find thanks to a new technology that automatically adds advertising to every video.

In a deal announced Monday, News Corp.’s MySpace will use technology from Los Angeles startup Auditude to automatically add advertising to each MTV clip uploaded to the site. Auditude has “fingerprinted” the entire MTV catalog so clips are immediately recognized and outfitted with appropriate ads, thereby sidestepping copyright issues that have dogged other content-sharing sites.

“What we’re doing is transforming what was once user-generated content into what we call ‘audience-empowered syndication,'”Adam Cahan, CEO of Auditude, said. “Now when you upload a clip of The Colbert Report to your MySpace page, every time someone presses play on that video, we get that call and render an ad back.”

Once a clip is identified, Auditude’s technology checks first with the copyright holder to find an appropriate ad — which has the added benefit of making sure, for example, that a Coke ad doesn’t run over a clip of a show to which Pepsi has bought the exclusive advertising rights. If the copyright holder doesn’t have a designated ad for that clip, one will be taken from the publishers’ inventory.

Revenues for the ads are shared between the publisher, copyright holder, and Audtitude, though neither Cahan nor a MySpace spokesman would disclose the portion allocated to each party.

A MySpace spokesman confirmed the details of the deal, saying the new openness will provide a better experience for members of the social network.

Cahan, himself a former MTV executive, said his company had also signed a deal with Warner Brothers, though no publisher for that deal had yet been identified. Auditude records and fingerprints close to 2 million minutes of television every day, and matches that content with video online, Cahan said, creating an exhaustive database of copyrighted content, meaning nearly any content publisher is a potential partner.

All sides hailed the deal as a possible solution to the issues of copyright infringement that have kept sites like MySpace from featuring a huge swath of professionally made content — as well as making it difficult for such sites to monetize their video inventory. MTV parent company Viacom is currently suing Google for $1 billion in copyright infringement based on clips illegally uploaded to YouTube.

“From the perspective of the content owner, I can embrace what the audience is doing and get significant scale,” said Cahan. “And from the publisher perspective, we’re transforming what was once called UGC that had questionable market value and couldn’t be monetized into inventory that is highly valuable.”