Guba's Johnny will find copyrighted videos online

Online video service Guba, fresh from distribution deals with several major movie studios, has launched a new technology that it claims will automatically detect and flag copyrighted video footage, even if that video has been altered. The company says it intends to license the technology, nicknamed “Johnny” (after Johnny Mnemonic), to other video sharing sites. “Johnny” was developed in partnership with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

This could really change the online video landscape, if it works. Goodbye Animal Planet clips on YouTube, for one thing.

Guba says that more than one million TV shows and movies are already included in its filter. That filter was an essential part of the deals the company has made recently with movie studios. The technology itself is a proprietary implementation of artificial intelligence four years in the making. It could be applied in any context including crawling the web, Guba co-founder Tom McInerney told me. Johnny finds and flags copyrighted video content, the business rules used to respond to that content can be determined by whoever licences it.

Guba says they are already talking with other video sharing sites about Johnny. McInerney says the technology also makes Guba much more viable as acquisition bait, especially since the 8 year old company hasn’t taken any outside funding it would need to multiply.

If other online video services have an effective, automatic way to monitor copyright made available to them – will they choose to use it? Or are many of these sites in reality made possible by the availability of copyrighted materials? Guba’s McInerney told me that in a perfect world Guba would be full of South Park clips, but given the lawsuits he’s sure are coming it only made sense to dedicate resources to creating the technology behind Johnny.

It may be time to start working on making better home movies and video blogs. If Guba works then a lot of theoretical questions about copyright could be faced with a technological answer.

Neil Kjeldsen helped with this story.