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IAC’s Vimeo is launching a new system that will automatically flag video uploaded by users if it’s found to match copyrighted content.

“We want people to be able to express themselves in the ways they see fit, but we also want to respect the boundaries of copyright law and the rights of other creators,” Darnell Witt, Vimeo’s director of support and community, wrote in a blog post about the new program.

Vimeo’s Copyright Match feature is similar to YouTube’s Content ID system, which lets copyright owners identify potentially infringing content and flag it for removal.

Vimeo already complies with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows content owners to notify a web-hosting service about copyright-infringing videos and request that they be removed. The company is adopting new system because “at our size, we need a semi-automated system” to enforce its copyright guidelines, Witt said.

Now, when Vimeo users upload a video, the Copyright Match system will “fingerprint” a sample of its audio to see if it matches that of certain third-party copyrighted material, such as songs, movies and TV shows. If so, the website will then notify users and give them two options: They can delete the content or file an appeal to claim the match was in error, that the content is being used with permission or that that the use is protected by “fair use” under copyright law.

As for what constitutes fair use, “the law doesn’t provide a clear-cut formula,” Witt said. Vimeo will evaluate those on a case-by-case basis, and the company has take care about “mitigating many of the issues common to other copyright-detecting systems” with regard to protecting fair use, he said.

Vimeo is partnering with Audible Magic, provider of content-identification services, for the feature. Witt noted that the website will submit only audio fingerprints of the content to Audible Magic, not users’ personal info.

In addition, Vimeo will not share information about any match with a copyright holder. However, if users file an appeal regarding their use of a copyrighted work, “we reserve the right to share some of the information from your appeal for purposes relating to rights enforcement,” Witt said.

New York-based Vimeo, founded in 2004 before YouTube came on the scene, has more than 26 million registered members, with 170 million monthly visitors.

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