The Viacom lawsuit against YouTube has been going on for too long already, and the arguments from both sides of the copyrighted material divide are becoming laboured very quickly.
But up until now, the case was between two huge, and highly profitable companies, and wasn’t actually impinging on us, the normal consumers and viewers of video on the Web. That is now set to change after a judge made a ridiculous decision in Viacom’s favour.
Users IP Addresses & More
Viacom asked the judge presiding over the ongoing case to force YouTube to reveal data about users names and IP addresses, as well as complete histories of which videos they have watched AND copies of every video ever removed from the site for any reason.
The judge, in his infinite wisdom, granted the order, and YouTube now has to comply. Which means information about you and I, and our viewing habits, is going to be released to a company seeking to sue over copyright infringements. Which means we could be sued too for viewing anything other than clips of pets on treadmills and the like.
Proving The Case
According to Wired, Viacom wants the data to help it prove that copyrighted material is more popular than user-generated content. Well sure it is, but YouTube isn’t actively encouraging the uploading of infringing material.
The lawsuit has now been running since March 2007, with Viacom seeking up to $1 billion in damages for YouTube allowing copyrighted material to be uploaded. YouTube has responded by claiming that the law protects it as long as any copyright-infringing clips are removed when a take down request is lodged.
Google Made A Boo Boo
Google has stated that this latest order to turn over data on its users would invade their privacy, but may have been hoisted by their own petard. Google’s defended its data retention policies a while back by claiming that IP addresses aren’t revealing in their own right without other material. The judge has now used this against the company.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has already angrily responded to this decision, calling the order a violation of the Video Privacy Protection act, while Mike Arrington at TechCrunch took a more direct approach by calling the judge “a moron”.
The database containing this requested information is said to take up 12 terabytes, so I don’t envy the people responsible for sifting through it all to prove a point. It could be worth the effort for Viacom though, as this could potentially bust Google’s defence.
I don’t think I have ever watched a Viacom-owned video on YouTube, but the fact that I even had to spend a few moments pondering the possibility should worry each and every right-thinking individual who has ever frequented YouTube.
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