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    Thursday, February 5, 2009

    Portfolio Mobile - First Bytes: Lenovo, Obama and Copyrights, iPhone

    First Bytes: Lenovo, Obama and Copyrights, iPhone

    Chinese computer maker Lenovo, which is reeling from the effects of the global economic crisis, announced it will replace its American CEO, William Amelio, with its chairman. [New York Times]

    Did Shepard Fairey need to get permission for the photograph of Obama used as the basis for his widely imitated "Hope" poster? The Associated Press, which owns the copyright on it, thinks so. [Wired]

    Speaking of copyrights, President Obama is evidently a big fan of protecting them. His latest appointment to the Department of Justice is Donald Verrilli, the lawyer who shut down Grokster, sued Google on behalf of Viacom, and represented the RIAA in a file-sharing case against a Minnesota woman. [CNet News]

    Finally, you no longer need to speak to a human being to order General Tsao's chicken from your local takeout restaurant. A few clicks on your iPhone will work instead. You'll still need to interact with the delivery guy, however. [Techcrunch]Related Links
    First Bytes: AT&T, Obama, Filttr, Skype
    NYT Co. Execs Under Fire at UBS Conference
    'NY Times' TV Critic Embellishes Debate Drama

    (c) 2007 Portfolio. Powered by mLogic Media, Crisp Wireless, Inc. Digital Pirates Winning Battle With Studios

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    BUSINESS   | February 05, 2009
    Digital Pirates Winning Battle With Studios
    Widely available broadband access and new streaming sites have made it easy to watch pirated video online.

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    VideoSurf rides surging Web video wave

    And the boss couldn't be happier.

    "When I see that, I know they're doing their job," says Lior Delgo, CEO of VideoSurf, a new website with a singular mission: to make finding and consuming online videos faster and more intuitive.

    Say you're eager to see Kate Winslet cry at the Golden Globes. Punch her name into most video search engines and you'll get clips of that teary acceptance speech, which you'll have to troll through to find the moment of her unraveling.

    Search with VideoSurf which has been in development for more than a year and launched a public beta version in October and you get that same clip with a detailed timeline stretching across the screen like an unrolled piece of 35mm film. Want just the weepy part? Find it in the timeline, click, and Winslet bawls.

    Powering VideoSurf's technology are facial recognition algorithms (developed by the team's Israeli-born founders) that map and store the distinguishing characteristics. The profiling is so detailed "it can easily tell the difference between Sarah Palin and Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin, based on things such as the measured distance between the eyes," says Eitan Sharon, VideoSurf's chief technology officer.

    Among other benefits of this approach is that searches won't be thrown by phony videos with tags bearing the only subject's name the typical way search engines find videos, which allows scammers to draw consumers to unrelated footage.

    "The current user experience is claustrophobic," says Delgo, who previously sold a travel search-engine company to Yahoo. "People are consuming more and more video, but they want a less frustrating and more targeted experience."

    Those innocent days of 2005, when the boys at YouTube dared suggest that people might want to screen the occasional online video, now seem quaint. In November, 12.7 billion videos were watched, up 34% over November 2007, according to research firm comScore. The length of time we watch each is creeping up as well, from 2.7 to 3.1 minutes. "That's due to a trend toward long-form, professional video, namely network shows found online," says Andrew Lipsman, comScore's director of industry analysis.

    "That's the new trend, because by showing such programming online, you have a chance to get that 18- to 34-year-old demographic, which is getting tougher to reach on television," he says. "For anyone working in video search right now, the potential is tantalizing."

    Among the companies in this burgeoning field are North Carolina-based Digitalsmiths (whose technology, which is used exclusively to power searches on sites such as, also uses visual recognition software) and San Francisco-based Blinkx (whose site presents the findings of searches in an innovative wall-of-TVs format for easy scanning).

    "The problem with YouTube (search) is that the uploader has complete control of how the clip is tagged, which can be misleading," says Blinkx founder Suranga Chandratillake. "We're still trying to find the very best way to present the results of video searches to consumers. But at least we know that the interest is there."

    All the clip-watching going on at VideoSurf, whose investors include the likes of Al Gore, is linked to efforts to broaden the number of offerings on the site. Currently, 23 staffers have indexed videos from about 80 sites, from YouTube to Hulu.

    Fiddling with VideoSurf is habit-forming. For one, there's the ability to not just e-mail clips to friends, but to select the precise minutes or seconds you want to share, although the recipient has the option to catch the rest of the clip.

    VideoSurf also offers a feature called Fan Pages, which showcases videos of searched subjects, related news and blog posts and wide filtering options.

    Delgo says he is close to figuring out how to turn a profit off his service, but remains coy. "It won't be ad-supported in the traditional sense," he says. But one thing is certain: Clips will not be interrupted by ads. "Our philosophy is you can't get in the way of the user's video experience."

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