A Paris-based technology start-up will launch a digital video and music “fingerprint” system this week that, if adopted, could enable user-generated content websites such as YouTube and MySpace to spot and remove illegally posted copyright material.

Advestigo claims its AdvestiGate technology, developed over the past four years, could help protect the big user-generated content sites from the threat of lawsuits from Hollywood studios and other content creators.

Universal Music Group, part of Paris-based Vivendi, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in November accusing MySpace of allowing its users to upload and download pirated songs and videos. The lawsuit also named Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which acquired MySpace for $580m in 2005.

YouTube, the largest video-sharing web service, which was acquired by search giant Google for $1.65bn in November, has yet to face a big lawsuit in spite of repeated threats.

“Video-sharing websites, which might handle upwards of 65,000 newly uploaded clips every day, are permanently at risk of litigation by unintentionally distributing copyrighted content online,” said Michel Roux, Advestigo’s chief executive.

Advestigo’s technology, based on complex pattern-matching algorithms, automatically filters uploaded content, comparing new “fingerprints” with a database of existing fingerprints from copyrighted material, including top Hollywood film titles and television series.

The French company claims the technology is effective even when the original content has been adjusted or altered.

The technology, which works with audio files as well as video clips, has been proved in use with many leading peer-to-peer services.

This week Advestigo said it will begin offering the technology in a $15,000 “appliance” – a box that can be hooked up to a network.

One box can handle about 3,000 video clips a day but large sites could hook dozens up together to monitor traffic on their networks.

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