So Viacom’s lengthy court case with Google over Youtube copyright infringement is finally coming to a head. A US court has ruled that Google will have to hand over the entire Youtube logging database, approximately 12 terabytes of files, after Viacom complained about roughly 160,000 Youtube clips of their shows (total views; over 1.5bn), posted in violation of copyright laws.
The log files contain details of all userIDs and IP addresses for every single video view on record to date, which understandably Google is not keen to share with Viacom…
Google has consequently cited users’ privacy as a primary concern for not wanting to hand over the details, accusing Viacom of making an ‘over-reaching demand for viewing history’. Their statements are making Viacom appear to be some kind of unreasonable and intrusive ogre, ruthlessly harnessing the legal system on a technicality to order Google to hand over excessive quantities of user data.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital civil liberties campaign group, has also backed Google and requested that Viacom back off from their requests.
However the truth really is that Youtube notoriously ignored many warnings about copyright infringement and the potential trouble it could cause (though the problem is admittedly a very difficult one to tackle fully) and is now perhaps inevitably being made accountable for this. Some would say it was merely a matter of time before such a case arose and Viacom’s demands are perfectly reasonable in such a situation.
Indeed it could be argued that it is Youtube that is solely at fault (as the court ruling has decreed) – and Youtube that is guilty of betraying users’ trust – even though Google currently seem very keen to make the opposite seem the case.
In ignoring the copyright warnings, Youtube itself created the possibiliy of such a situation as this arising – and did not consider that in such a case user data would become highly vulnerable. In essence they have brought about the situation where user data can rightfully be claimed by someone else – and are now asserting that to hand user data over is disrespectful of privacy etc.
One cannot help but feel that if Youtube was really as concerned about privacy to the degree they now claim to be, then they would have taken steps to ensure they did not leave themselves – and by extension their users’ details, vulnerable to such an action as this.
To this date no records have yet been handed over – but if it happens that they are (as currently seems likely) we must remember that it is Youtube who is in the wrong, not Viacom, who are perfectly within their rights to take the action they have. Google’s PR is working overtime to counter such a conclusion, but the simple truth is that it is Youtube that has breached the law – and not Viacom.
Some users no doubt will not be concerned over privacy and would happily forsake it in return for access to the content that they view – even when it is protected by copyright. Others though will probably be up in arms about the principles of the issue – and these users would do well to ignore much of Google’s Youtube PR spiel and remember the facts of how such a case has come about…
Though legally justified, Viacom’s request could be considered slightly excessive – but that is not really the issue. The main point is that Google has payed little heed to warnings about this potential problem, and will now have to have to pay for this carelessness with the sacrifice of damaging user trust.