This image was lost some time after publication.

An eagle-eyed Valleywag tipster with a taste for Modest Mouse spotted an interesting new feature on YouTube. Uploads of music videos from the band by non-official sources now carry a link reading "Contains content from Sony BMG," which leads users to the official Modest Mouse page on the site. The unofficial version of the video "Float On" has over a million views — the official version only 235,000. Also, both the official and unofficial versions have had the embed codes which allow users to post the video on third-party sites removed. My question? Whether this is automated by YouTube or if Sony BMG is flagging their videos by hand.

YouTube has argued that under the DMCA, it's not responsible for policing user uploads beyond responding promptly to takedown requests, which has resulted in a cottage industry of contractors who provide flagging services for content providers. If Sony/BMG is flagging the videos, but asking for a link back to the official channel, that certainly represents an evolution in the practice — and presumably by cataloging unofficial uploads, it gives the content holder the ability to track "wildcat" views on their content across the YouTube site.

But YouTube has also worked with companies like AudibleMagic on tools that identify, or "fingerprint," video files, as well as developing some in-house. Linking to official pages could even be automated to some degree. Video that exists on the site, or has been uploaded, can be scanned and compared to those from official sources, or at least marked for human review.

What about the site's users? YouTube's terms of use prohibit users from uploading infringing content, and threatens account deletion if discovered. But that's essentially resulted in fans being punished for promoting material from bands and shows they like. By uploading it and tagging it, they even make it easier for YouTube's search engine to identify it for copyright holders

Why allow third-party videos to remain on the site, links or no links? Removing unofficial copies from search results and redirecting inbound links directly to the official source seems like a much more secure way to guarantee Sony BMG sees all the traffic from Modest Mouse fans. But that would make YouTube's attempts to appease big media companies with which it has signed deals more obvious.