Google Must Divulge Video Viewing Habits Of Every YouTube User, Says US Court

Viacom vs GoogleThis is potentially huge. Viacom, which owns MTV and Paramount Pictures, has been involved in a legal battle with YouTube (and now Google) over what Viacom alleges is massive copyright infringement of their property. Viacom claims to have identified 160,000 unauthorised clips of its programmes.

Now, a US court has told Google that it must hand over the a detailed log – some 12 terabytes of data – which contains the log-in ID of all users, as well as their IP address and information on all the video clips they have ever watched. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights group, has called the ruling “a set-back to privacy rights.”

And it is. I mean, there’s nothing really explicit or illegal on YouTube (I think), but the idea that a corporation has the right to snoop around the viewing habits of everybody, just because 160,000 clips, out of an estimated 1.5 billion YouTube video clips, may or may not contain copyright material, is pretty scandalous.

It’s not just Viacom, either; the UK’s Premier League is also filing a lawsuit against Google claiming that YouTube has been used to show football highlights. I mean, really – highlights? What’s the big deal?

YouTube has responded by initialising new filtering tools to prevent copyright materials being uploaded to their site. Last time I looked, they didn’t appear to be working too well.

A spokesman for the EFF said, “The Court’s erroneous ruling is a set-back to privacy rights, and will allow Viacom to see what you are watching on YouTube. We urge Viacom to back off this overbroad request and Google to take all steps necessary to challenge this order and protect the rights of its users.”

How long until YouTube ‘does a Napster’, and becomes a shallow, big business-friendly version of itself (i.e., with no users), or disappears altogether? All it’s going to take is a Viacom victory – or whoever else decides to go to bat against Google. Until then, be careful what you watch – do you really want Viacom to know that you’ve seen the laughing baby ten thousand times?





17 Responses to Google Must Divulge Video Viewing Habits Of Every YouTube User, Says US Court

  1. This is ridiculous, Viacom sucks!

    I realize "sucks" is not a well structured argument but I am just really pissed at all these big companies that only care about money and sue anything that moves.

    Don't get me wrong, copyright infringement is (and should be) a crime but investing millions of dollars, violating users' privacy and suing Google for allowing the upload of soccer highlights certainly seems a bit over-the-top.

  2. This is ridiculous, Viacom sucks!

    I realize “sucks” is not a well structured argument but I am just really pissed at all these big companies that only care about money and sue anything that moves.

    Don’t get me wrong, copyright infringement is (and should be) a crime but investing millions of dollars, violating users’ privacy and suing Google for allowing the upload of soccer highlights certainly seems a bit over-the-top.

  3. Absolutely. As I suggested – if Viacom wins this lawsuit and YouTube gets hit with a billion dollar fine or some nonsense, that may well be the beginning of the end of 'above-ground' media sharing sites. I mean, at the end of the day, pretty much everything on YouTube – even the homemade stuff, technically – is the copyright material of at least one individual.

    The problem is, video clips can't be pushed onto an iTunes-like format, because a clip is not the finished product. Who's going to pay for a 30-second clip from a film? Nobody. That stuff *should* be free. It's basically a trailer. Indeed, studies show that people who excessively sample online media tend to buy a lot more of it offline, too. Why? Because they're fans. Non-fans don't buy CDs, DVDs, posters, attend gigs, etc.

    Of course, if somebody is uploading full movies or TV shows on to YouTube, then go ahead and remove it, and ban their account. But a clip from a classic film, or highlights from a major sporting event? I see no harm in that at all, as all it does is promote the item in question. Nobody is losing anything, as there is, and never will be, an option to buy that clip.

  4. Absolutely. As I suggested – if Viacom wins this lawsuit and YouTube gets hit with a billion dollar fine or some nonsense, that may well be the beginning of the end of ‘above-ground’ media sharing sites. I mean, at the end of the day, pretty much everything on YouTube – even the homemade stuff, technically – is the copyright material of at least one individual.

    The problem is, video clips can’t be pushed onto an iTunes-like format, because a clip is not the finished product. Who’s going to pay for a 30-second clip from a film? Nobody. That stuff *should* be free. It’s basically a trailer. Indeed, studies show that people who excessively sample online media tend to buy a lot more of it offline, too. Why? Because they’re fans. Non-fans don’t buy CDs, DVDs, posters, attend gigs, etc.

    Of course, if somebody is uploading full movies or TV shows on to YouTube, then go ahead and remove it, and ban their account. But a clip from a classic film, or highlights from a major sporting event? I see no harm in that at all, as all it does is promote the item in question. Nobody is losing anything, as there is, and never will be, an option to buy that clip.

  5. Absolutely. As I suggested – if Viacom wins this lawsuit and YouTube gets hit with a billion dollar fine or some nonsense, that may well be the beginning of the end of ‘above-ground’ media sharing sites. I mean, at the end of the day, pretty much everything on YouTube – even the homemade stuff, technically – is the copyright material of at least one individual.

    The problem is, video clips can’t be pushed onto an iTunes-like format, because a clip is not the finished product. Who’s going to pay for a 30-second clip from a film? Nobody. That stuff *should* be free. It’s basically a trailer. Indeed, studies show that people who excessively sample online media tend to buy a lot more of it offline, too. Why? Because they’re fans. Non-fans don’t buy CDs, DVDs, posters, attend gigs, etc.

    Of course, if somebody is uploading full movies or TV shows on to YouTube, then go ahead and remove it, and ban their account. But a clip from a classic film, or highlights from a major sporting event? I see no harm in that at all, as all it does is promote the item in question. Nobody is losing anything, as there is, and never will be, an option to buy that clip.

  6. I agree with the fair use requirements…we should be able to put up clips from shows and movies. Hell, without YouTube, I wouldn't have remembered what VR Troopers (old power rangers knock off show) was like.

    Problem is, if YouTube goes down, most people are going to have to resort to watching music videos and such on the TV or on Network websites, which is Viacom, ect.

    I'd say try and boycott anything that is sold or sponsored by Viacom. Don't watch MTV, ect. Drive their ratings down so it hurts their funding. Don't shop at their sponsors either, and let them know why you aren't.

  7. I agree with the fair use requirements…we should be able to put up clips from shows and movies. Hell, without YouTube, I wouldn’t have remembered what VR Troopers (old power rangers knock off show) was like.

    Problem is, if YouTube goes down, most people are going to have to resort to watching music videos and such on the TV or on Network websites, which is Viacom, ect.

    I’d say try and boycott anything that is sold or sponsored by Viacom. Don’t watch MTV, ect. Drive their ratings down so it hurts their funding. Don’t shop at their sponsors either, and let them know why you aren’t.

  8. The government wants to see how many times people viewed "Zeitgeist" and "America: Freedom to Fascism". Viacom is going to give the information to the government, just as they have given them other forms of electronic information. George Bush has yet to be impeached, and so the cat is out of the bag…they know that they can now do whatever they want, AT&T are on the same team as the government, and so is Viacom. The population thinks they are doing this to fight terrorism, which was their plan all along. It's the international central bankers that are behind everything, and power hungry politicians are helping them. This is nothing new, it has happened so many times in history that it is almost laughable that they think it can actually work. Humans are not like that, no matter how many laws they pass, or how many guns they point at us. They are finished, and they know it. They need to know all this information because their centrally planned economy is falling apart, and so more drastic intrusions of our private lives is needed so that they know what to do next. These psychos really are totally lost. They cannot see the black hole they are heading towards. They think they are going to be able to do everything right, but they forget one drastic thing: Centrally planned economies cannot work, no matter how advanced is the snooping technology, or how much information the government thinks it has. They really should read F.A. Hayek, and then re-read him. They don't understand that they are hurting THEMSELVES.

  9. The government wants to see how many times people viewed “Zeitgeist” and “America: Freedom to Fascism”. Viacom is going to give the information to the government, just as they have given them other forms of electronic information. George Bush has yet to be impeached, and so the cat is out of the bag…they know that they can now do whatever they want, AT&T are on the same team as the government, and so is Viacom. The population thinks they are doing this to fight terrorism, which was their plan all along. It’s the international central bankers that are behind everything, and power hungry politicians are helping them. This is nothing new, it has happened so many times in history that it is almost laughable that they think it can actually work. Humans are not like that, no matter how many laws they pass, or how many guns they point at us. They are finished, and they know it. They need to know all this information because their centrally planned economy is falling apart, and so more drastic intrusions of our private lives is needed so that they know what to do next. These psychos really are totally lost. They cannot see the black hole they are heading towards. They think they are going to be able to do everything right, but they forget one drastic thing: Centrally planned economies cannot work, no matter how advanced is the snooping technology, or how much information the government thinks it has. They really should read F.A. Hayek, and then re-read him. They don’t understand that they are hurting THEMSELVES.

  10. It was obvious this was going to happen one day. Frankly, I am surprised it took so long. YouTube content will become more and more boring, accounts will be necessary, and basically people will move on to another video sharing site… until it becomes too big as well, and the whole story repeats itself. It has happened countless times before with P2P sites and programs. So why would video sharing be different?

  11. It was obvious this was going to happen one day. Frankly, I am surprised it took so long. YouTube content will become more and more boring, accounts will be necessary, and basically people will move on to another video sharing site… until it becomes too big as well, and the whole story repeats itself. It has happened countless times before with P2P sites and programs. So why would video sharing be different?

  12. As a fellow security expert and privacy wonk, I have given this issue lots of thought. The question comes down to "Who would you rather have read your logs?"

    Viacom- which is CBS and MTV and Nickelodeon-

    Or Google, which owns YouTube?

    For those that fear for their privacy, they should relax. No person will be reading the logs of user JQPublic. The logs will be scoured by a script to identify a hit count of its illegally uploaded material, and the possible source of the upload. Anything that doesn't match one of those two criteria will be routed to dev/null. The only people that should be afraid are those who have uploaded every episode of Two and a Half Men.

    On the other hand, Google routinely analyzes the same log files that people are screaming about in order to serve ads. Plus, remember, many people's YouTube accounts are tied to Google Blogger and Gmail accounts. And Google has cooperated with Communist China to turn over logs which resulted in the arrest and execution of political dissidents.

    So who would you rather? Google or Viacom? Viacom hasn't killed anyone yet, despite their attempts with moron P-Diddy's "Vote or Die" campaign on MTV.

    I would say that Viacom has a legitimate complaint with Google's inability to filter out its copyrighted material. Google has actually been refusing to cooperate in this lawsuit by hiding behind the claim that their logs are private. And to an extent, they might be, but that is no reason to not cooperate in the lawsuit. Any review of the logs should be done by security experts under the supervision of both parties under a Non Disclosure Agreement.

    At a deeper level, the question should be, should corporations like google track this amount of user data for access to their services? And should this be a lesson to everyone not to sign up for every free service out there?

  13. As a fellow security expert and privacy wonk, I have given this issue lots of thought. The question comes down to “Who would you rather have read your logs?”

    Viacom- which is CBS and MTV and Nickelodeon-
    Or Google, which owns YouTube?

    For those that fear for their privacy, they should relax. No person will be reading the logs of user JQPublic. The logs will be scoured by a script to identify a hit count of its illegally uploaded material, and the possible source of the upload. Anything that doesn’t match one of those two criteria will be routed to dev/null. The only people that should be afraid are those who have uploaded every episode of Two and a Half Men.

    On the other hand, Google routinely analyzes the same log files that people are screaming about in order to serve ads. Plus, remember, many people’s YouTube accounts are tied to Google Blogger and Gmail accounts. And Google has cooperated with Communist China to turn over logs which resulted in the arrest and execution of political dissidents.

    So who would you rather? Google or Viacom? Viacom hasn’t killed anyone yet, despite their attempts with moron P-Diddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign on MTV.

    I would say that Viacom has a legitimate complaint with Google’s inability to filter out its copyrighted material. Google has actually been refusing to cooperate in this lawsuit by hiding behind the claim that their logs are private. And to an extent, they might be, but that is no reason to not cooperate in the lawsuit. Any review of the logs should be done by security experts under the supervision of both parties under a Non Disclosure Agreement.

    At a deeper level, the question should be, should corporations like google track this amount of user data for access to their services? And should this be a lesson to everyone not to sign up for every free service out there?