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Nielsen Unveils Online Video Tracking Service

It may have been a fun ride while it lasted, but sooner or later, everything gets monetized -- including shared online video.

That's the hope of the Nielsen Company, which today announced a new service enabling content producers to track, manage and, yes, monetize the distribution of their videos over the Internet.

Nielsen joined up with Digimarc, a technology provider that specializes in identification security, to develop the new Nielsen Digital Media Manager service. When it goes live in mid-2008, the service's focus will be to help TV networks rein in digital distribution of their programming and create a working business model for online video.

The system will employ digital watermarking and fingerprinting technologies to help content owners regain control over copyrighted videos that at present are ricocheting around the Internet on social networking sites, peer-to-peer services and, especially, user-generated content (UGC) sites like YouTube.

The system will allow media companies to track how many people are viewing their video content and on which sites those videos appear.

"The purpose of this service is to give the industry confidence that a secure system exists so that [television companies] feel comfortable distributing their content on the Internet," Dave Harkness, Nielsen's senior vice president of strategy and business development, told InternetNews.com.

Ultimately, Nielsen expects the service to create an industry-wide standard for copyright compliance. At the same time, it could provide content owners with a more accessible path to making money from their videos through sales, ad-pairing and royalties.

"Until now, the lack of an independent, industry-accepted identification tracking service has limited the transactions that allow the delivery of media content over the Internet," Nielsen Chairman and CEO David Calhoun said in a statement.

The service could become the technological solution to a problem that Viacom has been unable to resolve in court. In March, Viacom filed a suit against Google, claiming that the company's video-sharing site YouTube had engaged in "massive intentional copyright infringement."

The suit came after YouTube failed to respond to Viacom's demand that it take down 100,000 video clips from shows that had aired on MTV, Comedy Central and other networks.

In such instances, Nielsen's Digital Media Manager could provide content companies like Viacom with an automated instrument for enforcing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The service would notify media owners of where and how people are accessing, sharing and editing their videos, enabling them to block usage on specific sites if they detect copyright violation.

The company said that under that scenario, usage permissions would be governed by pre-existing rules, so that when a user attempts to upload a clip from a TV show to a site, the action would be automatically blocked if the site did not have a business relationship with the content owner.

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