YouTube says content will be filtered this year

Video sharing website YouTube hopes to filter out unauthorised copyrighted material by the end of the year, according to a lawyer for its owner, Google.

Philip Beck said that the company hoped to have its system in place by September or later in the autumn. Beck told a New York judge of the implementation timetable as part of a lawsuit being taken against it by content owners.

Film and television company Viacom, music publisher Bourne and the English Premier League are suing YouTube and their cases have been combined. Beck's revelation came as part of that hearing before Judge Louis Stanton.

YouTube allows users to view and to post videos online for free. Though designed for content users have produced themselves, it has been widely used to post and view copyrighted material without owners' permission.

YouTube claims that it is not liable for infringing activity because it qualifies for 'safe harbor' under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This protects companies such as internet service providers from liability for the content that travels on their networks.

YouTube has long promised a filtering technology that it claimed would actively filter out infringing material, but this is the first time a firm timetable has been released.

Beck said that the technology Google and YouTube were working on was as sophisticated as the fingerprint recognition technology used by the FBI. He said that the company hoped to have the technology operational "hopefully by September".

In the system, content owners would give YouTube a 'digital fingerprint' which would be used to identify videos in its system that infringed copyrights. He said that videos would be removed within a minute of posting.

Beck's timetable may be optimistic, though. A YouTube spokesperson told news service IDG that "it's difficult to forecast specific launch dates".

The DMCA says that operators can qualify for 'safe harbor' if they immediately remove offending material once they are notified about it, but content owners such as Viacom have argued that notifying the company about every single posted video is impractical.