NEW YORK -- An alliance of leading media and Internet companies rallied yesterday behind new guidelines intended to control the spread of copyright-protected videos on the Web.
YouTube has been at the heart of a booming trend as Internet users create and post their own videos online. Many people also record and upload copyrighted content such as TV shows and movies. Viacom has sued YouTube for $1 billion for showing clips of its programs without permission.
Earlier this week, YouTube launched a long-awaited technology to filter out copyrighted clips, a move meant to appease movie and TV studios that complain of rampant video piracy.
Filtering videos is also at the heart of the new guidelines.
Under the agreement, Web sites hosting content uploaded by users should use technology to block unauthorized clips before they can be publicly viewed and remove those already online.
The participating copyright holders also should avoid suing Web sites that follow the rules if infringing video clips still manage to slip through.
"Today's announcement marks a significant step in transforming the Internet from a Wild West to a popular medium that respects the rule of law," said Jeff Zucker, chief executive officer of NBC Universal, one of the participating companies.
Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steven A. Ballmer said the effort will allow the Internet to be a platform for video "that allows services to innovate and preserves incentives for all creators, big and small, by respecting copyright."
The other companies involved are Internet firms Veoh Networks and Dailymotion and media companies CBS Corp. and Fox Entertainment Group.
The guidelines are not legally binding, but the companies said they plan to adhere to them by year's end.
While not naming names, the coalition's statement urged "others to embrace these principles" and said the companies look forward to further discussions.
YouTube held discussions with Disney about joining the guidelines group, but it decided to "lead through example" rather than support practices that could become an industry technology requirement, a concept the company opposes, a YouTube spokesman said.
In the short term, the new copyright guidelines may mean less video choice for consumers as protected content is taken down from some sites, said Scott Kessler, a Standard & Poor's analyst.
"Consumer are losing options, but I could argue they are losing illegal options," he said.
In the long term, the protections will lead to more investment in original Internet content, Kessler said.
YouTube's current filtering tools, tested with companies including Time Warner Inc. and Disney, allow the owners of copyrighted video to block their content from being viewed on the site. The companies also can choose to leave the clips online while selling ads around them and sharing the revenue.
Media companies have to provide YouTube with copies of the copyrighted videos they want blocked for the creation of digital files used in the filtering.
Unlike the process sought in the guidelines, YouTube's system cannot yet prevent videos from being posted initially. It takes a few minutes for them to be removed.