During Their Lawsuit, Viacom & Google Agree To Protect Consumers
Friday, July 18, 2008
Lately, I have followed the Viacom vs. Youtube/Google lawsuit, since it has several implications for consumers' privacy and social media applications. Things seem to be changing fairly quickly. The MediaPost Daily Examiner reported:
"Google and Viacom have reached an agreement to mask the identities of YouTube users before their viewing records are disclosed as part of a copyright infringement lawsuit. The deal calls for Google to anonymize the screennames, IP addresses and visitor IDs of YouTube users before turning over their viewing history to Viacom. In a stipulation signed late Monday night, the parties also said they wouldn't attempt to circumvent the encryption."
This agreement is nice and is a step in the right direction. It still doesn't resolve the judge's poor decision to force Youtube/Google to turn over Youtube users' records and identity data. Let's remember that Viacom's primary concern is the material on Youtube which violates it copyrights. The offending materials should be removed and the users who uploaded the material should pay fees to Viacom.
My concern about the threat to social media applications is summarized by mediaPost:
"With the anonymized user data, the entertainment company is apparently trying to prove that pirated clips are big draws on YouTube. If YouTube benefited from piracy, it could lose the safe harbor protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which generally immunize sites from liability based on material submitted by users. But there’s a very big leap between showing that, say, a Jon Stewart clip is popular on YouTube and proving that the company built its brand on copyrighted content."
It seems that Viacom is not just pursuing people who infringe on their copyrighted materials, but following the money trail... which points to Google. Maybe as an acquisition of Youtube, maybe to shut it down, or maybe to just slow down Youtube. Turning over all consumer records will definitely help Viacom assess the damage... how many people viewed the copyright-infringing materials.
Viacom's focus should be on a) Youtube removing the offending material, and b) Viacom approaching the users who uploaded copyright-infringing material. I'd like to see Viacom stop the perpetual lawsuits, and instead produce content and develop more sensible online business models. If you want to read a copy of the lawsuit, see this TechCrunch post.
TechCrunch has another post worth reading about this lawsuit: "The Issue of Trust Is With Google, Not Viacom." I disagree. Regarding this lawsuit, both companies' actions have hurt consumers' trust in their brands.
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