Nielsen brings its TV know-how to Internet video protection

TV and film content providers are constantly trying to prevent their properties from spreading throughout the web, but for online video makers, Internet proliferation is key to their model. As a solution for online media digital rights management (DRM), Nielsen and Digimarc announced today a new service for media companies, social networks, peer-to-peer services and user generated content sites to monitor and manage the distribution online content.

The new service, dubbed “Nielsen Digital Media Manager” will employ digital watermarking and fingerprinting for copyright protection. Aside from just DRM issues, the digital watermarking will also aid content providers tracking content. Nielsen already uses a form of watermarking to encode television programming.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Nielsen Digital Media Manager operates by checking the watermark embedded in a video stream. Once identified, the program references the distribution rights associated with the file and loads according to predefined parameters once authorized. For example, a video may only be allowed to load alongside a specific piece of advertising.

"We believe these services will stimulate the growth of online video distribution, to the benefit of consumers, content providers and distributors," said David Calhoun, chairman and CEO of the Nielsen Company. Calhoun added his belief that the new Nielsen Digital Media Manager will remove certain limitations on content providers in moving their media onto the Internet.

"Until now, the lack of an independent, industry-accepted identification and tracking service has limited the transactions that allow the delivery of media content over the Internet, " added Calhoun. "Now with our new media identification and management services unique ability to identify content throughout the Internet, both content providers and distributors can protect and monetize the value of online media."

Chairman and CEO of Digimarc Bruce Davis, echoed those sentiments, saying, "The ability to identify content enables accountability, insightful marketing, and enhanced consumer experiences. This initiative can turn a perceived threat to the entertainment industry into a manageable solution that inspires an exciting new era of digital entertainment."

While other companies have already implemented similar technologies into their media delivery programs, Nielsen’s pull in the television industry may give it a distinct advantage. "The point is the big boys are coming, and that signals that this is a field that has reached technological maturity," said Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal to the WSJ. "It will achieve widespread commercial adoption, and from a content point of view, it will contribute dramatically to reducing the easy theft of copyrighted material online."

Following the introduction of the Nielsen Digital Media Manager for online content, Nielsen and Digimarc expressed plans to extend its technology to digitally watermark DVD’s, movies, music, video games and other content.

Nielsen said that it has approached companies such as Google and News Corp.’s Fox, about the new service. Google’s YouTube has employed fingerprinting technology since September, but may consider implementing further digital protection technologies to prevent further legal action from media companies. In March, Viacom filed a lawsuit seeking $1 billion against Google alleging that the Mountain View, Calif. software company intentionally committed massive copyright infringement of Viacom’s properties.

The companies expect the new media identification and management services to be available in mid 2008.

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