July 4, 2008

Viacom Gets YouTube User Data

youtube150.jpgIn the ongoing copyright litigation between Google and Viacom, a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York In the ongoing copyright litigation between Google and Viacom, a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has ordered Google (PDF) to hand over data on every YouTube user, including username, the associated IP address, and a list of all the the videos that user ever watched.

In this lawsuit, Viacom is seeking more than $1 billion in damages because of alleged copyright violations on YouTube.

Besides this user data, Viacom also sought access to Google's source code for its web and video search, as well as for its 'Video ID' program. The judge, however, denied access to the code, because, "considered against its value and secrecy, plaintiffs have not made a sufficient showing of need for its disclosure." It's interesting that Google's trade secrets are worth protecting while the privacy of users is not.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that this ruling is in violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (VPAA), which forbids the disclosure of personally identifiable rental data without a consumer's consent. The EFF argues that because some users on YouTube used the full names as login names, the VPAA applies to YouTube.

Mark Cuban also has an interesting take on this story. He argues that the data Google now has to release might show that Google actively removes pornographic content from YouTube, which would then lead Google to lose its DMCA protection.

For a lot of users, the question is going to be what Viacom will do with all this data . Are they planning to sue individual users as well as Google? To substantiate its claims against Google, Viacom doesn't really need to be able to identify individual users.

Update: For now, it seems that Viacom is restricted to using the data solely to prove its copyright claims.

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