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Google Video: Asleep At The Wheel

If Google has changed its policies in favor of a video free-for-all, they should say so. But I can’t help but wonder how companies who offer content on Google Video—companies like the NBA, CBS, and Sony BMG Music—feel about having their content presented with these clips. Despite repeated requests, both the NBA and CBS declined to comment for this story.

Google wasn’t much more forthcoming in either explanation or clarification. Streamingmedia.com sent Google links to sixteen videos that clearly violated their guidelines, asked for an explanation, and notified them of ways they could find hundreds of more clips in violation. Google spokesperson Nathan Tyler said in an email that he "sent all the links you shared with the team who reviews these matters and they will act quickly to remove any content that conflicts with our program policies." At the time this article was completed, however, 36 hours had elapsed and the videos were still accessible on the site. Since sending Google the sixteen links as examples, we’ve come across additional videos showing drug use, gang violence, and other clearly questionable content.

Tyler wouldn’t elaborate on what type of content Google considers pornographic, obscene, illegal, or in violation of any of the other criteria they list in their content guidelines. "We have a clear description of our content guidelines," he said, and gave us a link back to their guidelines page. As for the type of review process Google has in place, Tyler wouldn’t say specifically whether it was based on keywords, frame algorithms, or employee review of content, saying only that "we do a preliminary review on uploaded videos through both a manual and automated process.

"However," Tyler continued, "we encourage our viewers to notify us when they discover policy violations or copyright issue—we have a process for reviewing reported policy violations, and respond to reported copyright violations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act."

Are we to infer that Google is more concerned with DMCA issues than with pornography or obscenity? If so, Google also appears to be failing on that front. A scan of the site reveals episodes of Seinfeld, MTV shows, music videos, and other copyrighted content—all of which have been uploaded by consumers, not rights holders.

The bigger question is why Google even thinks it needs to host this type of content in the first place. How does it help their business? It doesn’t and they should be ashamed of themselves. When The real potential of the Video Store lies in offering mainstream content that people are actually willing to pay for. When Google cofounder Larry Page officially announced the Google Video Store at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, there was no mention of the site hosting raunchy or illegal content uploaded by consumers. In fact, the entire discussion of the Video Store revolved around hosting mainstream content and monetizing the service, a point driven home by the fact that Page was joined on the stage by TNT commentator and former NBA player Kenny Smith.

Some may ask why I even care what kind of content Google hosts or does not host. I don’t work for Google, and if Streaming Media doesn’t want to showcase its videos on their site, no one is forcing us to. They are right. But there is a bigger issue here. Those of us who have been working in the streaming media space since the beginning have spent many years to advance this technology, create new business models, and try to get past the early stigma that equates "streaming media" with "porn."

Google is still a media darling, and in many cases for good reason. But the Google Video Store is now the prime reflection of our industry and technologies, not to mention many of the companies involved in it. What possible good can come for any of this? Doesn’t Google have a responsibility to set the standards for the entire industry? After all, number six of Google’s ten-point company philosophy reads, "You can make money without doing evil."

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