Viacom Gets To Find Out What YouTube Videos You Watched

from the not-good dept

In the ongoing trainwreck that is Viacom's misguided lawsuit against YouTube (the one they would be better off losing) a judge has come out with a ruling on evidence that Google has to hand over to Viacom -- and it's being portrayed in the press as both a win and a loss for Google. On the "win" side, Google does not have to hand over the YouTube source code (or the source code of its filtering system). This makes sense, as the source code is rather meaningless here, and this request was clearly a reach from the start.

However, much more troublesome is the judge's ruling that Google does need to hand over log files including the IP address and usernames of people who viewed YouTube videos. This represents a huge violation of privacy and a clear violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). This was the law we were just discussing, due to a lawsuit concerning Blockbuster revealing rental info via Facebook's Beacon program. It was originally passed after the video rental history of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork was released in the press. The idea is that what movies you rent should be private info not to be shared.

The court pretty much ignored this law, only mentioning it in a footnote, suggesting that it only applies to video tapes. But, as the EFF points out in the link above, the law actually says "prerecorded video cassette tapes or similar audio visual materials." But, more to the point, it is not at all clear why Viacom should need this specific information. If it wants to show numbers of people who viewed certain videos, it seems that aggregate info should be sufficient. Having Google hand over much more info doesn't seem to serve any purpose related to the legal questions involved in the case. Update: There are now claims that Viacom will be very limited in how the data can be used -- with the threat of a contempt of court charge if anyone other than the lawyers involved in the case and specific experts see the data, but that's really not sufficient for privacy purposes. There's no way to make sure the data only stays in those hands, and even so it's still a violation of the privacy of users.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: lawsuits, log files, video rentals
Companies: google, viacom, youtube


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Thomas, 4 Jul 2008 @ 7:58am

    Down With VIACOM.

    Its a classic example of someone who does not have a clue about the technical aspect of the internet, making a judgement that they have no clue of the magnitude of importance their actions created. By forcing them to release ALL information about the users, is Stupid and it violates everyone's privacy. It should have stated that they wanted the persons IP address who posted the copywrite video. Not the people who watched it. ViaCom is just trying to get a piece of the action. They dont have enough users and are not making enough money on their own so they have to trick some judge who does not have a clue, into forcing companies to give them more data. Its a fact, I have two YouTube accounts with email addressess that do NOT get spam, I bet after viacom gets a hold of the data I get spam. Whatever happened to the judge from the CraigsList case, who said that its not CraigsList that should be held liable, but the user who posted it! It dont matter what that law is at this time, what matters is that ViaCom got what they wanted; a long list of user names and IP addressess.. And its your personal information that the are going to have. Does anyone know how to get a hold of the judge, and tell him what he has done is way more of a violation of privacy/copywrite, then the original case in question?? I am sure we will have to call him by phone, as he obviously has no clue about how the internet works....

    We all need to complain about this or it will happen over and over and over, until one day you wake up and none of your online personal data is personal anymore..

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.