- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley yesterday defended his video-sharing Web site’s safeguards for protecting copyrighted material when criticized at a hearing on video technology.

“I could go on to YouTube right now and pull up dozens of clips of copyrighted work,” Rep. Mike Ferguson, New Jersey Republican, said angrily. “Why don’t you take that stuff down?”

“Our site isn’t about copyrighted material,” Mr. Hurley calmly responded, citing the site’s flagging policy and other mechanisms for preventing copyrighted clips from being uploaded onto the site.

“But it is,” said Mr. Ferguson, a member of the House Energy and Commerce telecommunications and the Internet subcommittee.

The testy exchange came as copyright issues, net neutrality and the need for fiber-optic networks were debated at yesterday’s hearing. Subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, presided over a high-profile panel featuring Mr. Hurley, HDNet co-founder Mark Cuban and the founders of TiVo and Sling Media.

Mr. Cuban joined Mr. Ferguson in criticizing Google-owned YouTube, which is being sued by Viacom in a $1 billion copyright infringement case.

“As a content owner, the concept of take-down notices wasn’t so that we had to continually monitor hosted-service providers, every single one of them, 24/7,” he argued in response to Mr. Hurley’s point that YouTube’s content partners help them identify copyrighted material.

At the same time, Blake Krikorian, chief executive officer of Sling Media, urged lawmakers to “protect consumers’ rights to record, timeshift and placeshift their lawfully acquired content for personal use.”

His company’s Slingbox enables users to send content from their TVs to any online device.

So-called “net neutrality” was another source of contention, with Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat, chiding colleagues for not supporting a proposal that would prevent network operators from discriminating against certain services in allotting bandwidth over their pipes.

“There are some here on the committee that really tend to gatekeeping and choke points,” she said. “That really is a thing of the past.”

A net neutrality amendment sponsored by Mr. Markey was defeated in the subcommittee last year when it was controlled by Republicans. Mr. Hurley and others on the panel said they support such legislation.

“Because of an open Internet, we were able to develop a service that has been able to compete,” Mr. Hurley said.

Added Mr. Krikorian: “There’s no way that any of these technologies would make it” if Internet providers were able to prioritize the traffic over their networks.

Mr. Cuban called such concerns misdirected. The focus instead should be on expanding bandwidth of America’s Internet networks by upgrading to high-capacity, albeit high-cost, fiber, he said.

“Unfortunately now in our broadband environment there’s not room for everybody,” he said. “There’s no question that bandwidth cures all.”

Without “significant investment,” economic development will stall, he added.

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