Firms seek online copyright pact

Media and internet firms, including Viacom, Walt Disney, Microsoft and Myspace are setting guidelines to protect copyright material online. The group plans to use technology to prevent content that breaks copyright rules being posted on the internet, as well as to stop pirated material. Search engine Google, owner of video site YouTube, has not joined the project, but analysts predict it will. Internet content, notably video, has boomed, including copyright material. 'Enormous potential' But there has been growing tension between the sites that host content and the originators of the content when material is posted online by the public, without consent. "These principles offer a road map for unlocking the enormous potential of online video and user-generated content," said Bob Iger, chief executive of Disney. Other firms involved in the project include New Corp's Fox channel, CBS and General Electric's NBC Universal. In response to the plan, analyst James McQuivey at Forrester Research said: "Google will be forced to accept a common model rather than use its own solution as a competitive differentiator". Google recently said it would use new technology to stop copyright material from appearing and spreading on the site. Google and YouTube joined Walt Disney and Time Warner in testing the new technology. However, Google is also facing a $1bn battle with Viacom over copyright infringement. Mr McQuivey said the pressure on Google to join the new initiative would be "intense" because "the fate of existing lawsuits will likely hinge on Google's acceptance of the common solution."

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