Viacom Wants to Know: Have You Visited YouTube?
For over a year now, Viacom has been after Google to pay up the $1 billion they claim is theirs. Viacom petitions that there have been serious copyright infringements on the part of Google’s partner, YouTube, grievances that they do not want to see go unpunished. Last week District Court Judge Louis Stanton ordered that Google hand over all records of YouTube users as evidence for the media conglomerate. Viacom charges Google with negligence in regard to policing the postings on YouTube, particularly those illegally posted from other sites. Even as one of America’s largest media companies, Viacom worries they are beginning to lose revenue to companies such as YouTube who they feel are subject to few effective regulations when it comes to posting copyrighted materials. Eager to discontinue this process of transferring funds from their own outlet to YouTube, Viacom has been searching for an answer as to whether or not anything will be done about the alleged illegal activity. Judge Stanton, of the district court in New York, responded by deciding to allow Viacom to use the records of YouTube users to demonstrate just how many clips have been uploaded to the site illegally.
Although the interaction between the two corporate giants has remained civil for the most part, Google is not ready to roll over just yet. Citing the Video Protection Privacy Act from 1988, Google is holding on to the records, keeping users privacy in mind, a wise move considering other allegations that the search engine is doing anything but protecting their users. According to this code, even with a court order demanding the release of records, users must be notified of the action and given the opportunity to appear before the court. With over 82 million people making up the population of YouTube visitors in just 3 years, it would be difficult to quickly notify everyone, let alone allow for the appearance of each user. Despite statements from both Google and Viacom that their biggest concern is protecting the identity of these individuals, privacy groups are suspicious of what might result.