The ongoing battle between Viacom and Google entered a cultural quagmire as a judge on July 2 ordered the latter to hand over all records of every video ever watched on YouTube. Google, which owns YouTube, will have to release a staggering 12 terabytes of data (a terabyte is equal to 1000 gigabytes, which is a whole lot of iPods). The information includes user names, IP addresses and what videos were watched and when. A little icing on the cake: Google will also have to turn over all videos that have been taken down for any reason. Even some information regarding videos that are set to private will have to be divulged.
The lawsuit—combined with a similar lawsuit filed by the English Premier League (you know, soccer) and other parties—was filed in March 2007. Viacom is seeking $1 billion in damages for YouTube allowing its users to upload onto its servers copyright-protected material.
U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton (give him a call: (212) 805-0252!) presided over the ruling. He dismissed Google’s argument that turning over their users’ information would infringe upon their privacy as merely speculative. To add insult to injury, Stanton used Google’s defense of retaining all that data—which is how Google is able to make so much money and rule the Internet with an iron hand—against them in his decision. According to the Sacramento Bee, “Though Google said giving the plaintiffs access to YouTube viewer data would threaten users’ privacy, Stanton referred to Google’s own blog entry in which the company argued that the IP address alone cannot identify a specific individual.” Burn!
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that “[champions] the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights,” called Stanton’s ruling “erroneous” and “a set-back to privacy rights.”
I don’t agree with the ruling. As one astute commenter (imagine that!) wrote on the Wired blog, “I don’t see any real need to disclose user identities and other personal information to a third party, especially when Viacom has no claim to the video. How does my personal information help Viacom determine whether a video is or is not its copyrighted material?” My thoughts exactly. Clearly, Viacom is after more than just a billion-dollar payday. The media giant also asked for “YouTube’s source code, the code for identifying repeat copyright infringement uploads, copies of all videos marked private, and Google’s advertising database schema,” according to the Wired article posted by Ryan Singel. I wonder what they could’ve wanted that for”¦
I don’t care if they have my user information or not. I have nothing to hide. Sure, I like to watch clips of scantily clad women shake it to the pop song du jour while I’m supposed to be editing this here magazine (those girls are of age, right?), but I’m sure that doesn’t make me a criminal”¦well, reasonably sure. I’ve never seen “Two Girls, One Cup” or “Leave Britney Alone” or even “Chocolate Rain,” so I have nothing to be ashamed of either.
We all had to know this was coming. It’s been a crazy ride on the information superhighway, but I’m sure more decisions like these are coming. There’ll be more regulations, too. The days of the Internet as the new Wild West are numbered. At least you can take solace in knowing that you’re not the intern who has to pore through all that data.