Court Grants Viacom YouTube Users Data; Is Your Privacy At Risk?

Google is asking Viacom to allow them to anonymize users and the logs to protect users’ privacy after a court ordered YouTube information to be turned over to Viacom.

Although Google who owns the video sharing website YouTube was ordered by courts to turn over user information to Viacom in a $1 billion dollar Viacom vs YouTube copyright lawsuit, Google is asking Viacom to allow them to anonymize users and the logs to protect their privacy.

In the 25 page court order filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton for the Southern District of New York ordered Google to grant Viacom the rights to access usernames, IP addresses and videos watched by YouTube users after Viacom alleged violations of the copyright act of 1976 by defendants YouTube.

Viacom in the suit is claiming that YouTube encourages individuals to upload videos to the YouTube site, where YouTube makes them available for immediate viewing by members of the public free of charge. The suit goes on to state:

YouTube has filled its library with entire episodes and movies and significant segments of popular copyright programming from Viacom and other copyright owners, neither YouTube nor the users who submit the works are licensed to use. Because YouTube users contribute pirated copyrighted works to YouTube by the thousands, including those owned by Plaintiffs, the videos “deliver[ed]” by YouTube include a vast unauthorized collection of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted audiovisual works. YouTube’s use of this content directly competes with uses that Plaintiffs have authorized and for which Plaintiffs receive valuable compensation.

On page 4 of the suit, Viacom hoped to seek the source code of Google and YouTube search function.

Plaintiffs move jointly pursuant of Fed. R. Civ. P. 37 to compel YouTube and Google to produce certain electronically stored information and documents, including a critical trade secret: the computer source code which controls both the search function and Google’s internet search tool “” YouTube and Google cross-move pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c) for a protective order barring disclosure of that search code, which they content is responsible for Google’s growth “from its founding in 1998 to a multi-national presence with more than 16,000 employees and a market valuation of roughly $150 billion” (Signhal Decl. 3, 11), and cannot be disclosed without risking the loss of the business.

The search code is the product of over a thousand person-years of work. Singhal Decl. 9. There is no dispute that its secrecy is of enormous commercial value. Someone with access to it could readily perceive its basic design principles, and cause catastrophic competitive harm to Google by sharing them with others who might create their own programs without making the same investment.

The cross-motion to protect YouTube’s search function was granted, however the motion to compel production of its search code was denied. The motion to compel production of all removed videos were also granted, inaddition to compel production of all data from the logging database concerning each time a YouTube video was viewed on YouTube website or through embedding on a third-party website. The motion to compel production of the scheme for Google Advertising database was denied, as well as production of the private video and data except to the extent it seeks production of specified non-content data about such videos.

While this is becoming a nightmare for web users and Privacy advocates who argue that this order would violate the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act that states that private records may not be turned over to a third-party unless the person whose records are being revealed is given an opportunity to contest such a decision. Viacom has responded saying that it has no use in using personal information against the viewers and that they only wish to prove that YouTube has been profiting and promoting the viewing of pirated content.

According to Viacom the information that they obtain will be shared with outside advisors who will allegedly use it for the sole purpose of enforcing their rights against YouTube which has everyone at the edge of their seats.

The question now is, ‘could this ruling cause an uproar in more cases requesting such information?’

Viacom Inc., owns Comedy Central, VH1 and Nickelodeon, amongst others.

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