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Google's new video search tool is turning out to be a little more expansive than the company planned, with users uploading copyrighted content ranging from the last Matrix movie to the Family Guy cartoons.
Consumers browsing the service, which was opened to the public just two days ago, have uncovered links to full versions of feature-length movies, TV shows and other content. As of Thursday morning in the US, much of that content could be watched in its entirety on Google's site.
The company's terms of service clearly state that anyone uploading content to the search tool must have the rights to distribute the video and that copyrighted material is barred without the express consent of the copyright holder. However, the company's site also says that it does a preliminary review of content, looking for the most egregious "adult content or obvious copyright violations."
"We encourage anyone who has a copyright concern or complaint to send us a DMCA content removal notice. However, if we see content in Google Video that clearly violates copyright we will remove it," the company said in a statement.
A Google spokesman said the company is in the process of removing all material that violates copyright.
Coming just days after a Supreme Court ruling that sharply strengthened Hollywood's legal hand against unauthorised movie distribution online, the incident highlights the dangers that Google is facing with its new service.
The new video search is designed not only to search what's already available on the Web, but to host video for producers that don't have the resources to post it themselves.
Web portals and Internet service providers that allow users to post their own content have been shielded from liability for copyright violations, as long as they remove violations when asked by a rights holder. However, Hollywood studios and record labels have been unhappy with the increasing ability of automated technology such as search engines and peer-to-peer technology to provide access to copyrighted material under these rules.
Much of the content uploaded to Google's search tool had been in the system for weeks. A watchable copy of The Matrix Revolutions was stamped with a June 9 upload time, and the Family Guy cartoons were uploaded on June 7, according to the Web page.
While the Matrix link was still up Thursday morning in the US, the "play" buttons for screen captures of The Simpsons episodes had been removed.