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TV Biz to Google: Not So Fast

Jan 31, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Several content providers and copyright holders have requested that Google remove unapproved content from its new Google Video search service, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Google Video apparently had not received permission to include all of the content accessible in the beta test being conducted with material collected from the signals of San Francisco-area stations, the sources said.

“What Google is doing is illegal,” was the chorus from a number of providers who asked Google to remove their content until appropriate conversations about rights-which could involve everyone from a network and studio to the actors, writers and guilds-and permission can be held.

Many of these same sources say the content providers are intrigued by possibilities of a deal with Google Video, which was announced last week, or similar search services, such as rival Yahoo! plans. But many complicated issues would have to be resolved before permission for even a test could be granted, and these providers would prefer their content be taken down until an agreement is reached.

“We want people to get our content,” one network executive said. “But we want people to get it legally.”

Jennifer Feikin, director of Google Video, declined to comment on whether any requests to remove content had been received or whether any content might be removed.

Ms. Feikin said Google is “a law-abiding company” that takes “a very conservative view” of what is legal to use and noted that there is no video, only stills, limited excerpts of text and information about future airdates and related Web sites.

“We are continuing to talk to a number of content owners who are very positive about this,” Ms. Feikin said, adding that there is a link on the Google.com/video site for feedback from those not happy at being conscripted into the study. “We will address their concerns,” she said. “We will chat with them.”

“They are smart guys and they will solve it,” said Tolman Geffs, an investment banker and managing director of The Jordan, Edmiston Group and former principal in Internet Broadcasting Systems, which builds and maintains Web sites for TV stations throughout the country. Mr. Geffs said the Google Video experiment is “interesting,” but he also suspects “the lawyers will have a field day.”

Google had identified PBS, the NBA, Fox News and C-SPAN as providers of content that could be accessed with the video search service test, which went live early last week. Google also said there were other participants who had not given permission to identify them.

As early users saw, no video is accessible, only frame grabs of varying quality. Users also discovered that all the major broadcasters’ signals seemed to have been downloaded for months in preparation for the test. The text accompanying the frame grabs is essentially closed-captioning, with its spelling and grammatical warts and all. The occasional advertising image or text also showed up in some searches.

It is uncertain when Google may offer video excerpts playback or how much video from any single TV show might be available for playback.