Intellectual Property

Viacom Wants You (or, more precisely, your YouTube viewing patterns)


In 2007, entertainment behemoth Viacom sued Google, owner of YouTube, claiming that the video-sharing behemoth was using unlicensed copyrighted material as a means of gaining eyeballs, selling ads, and thus making money. YouTube responded to the copyright-infringement claims by invoking the "safe-harbor" clause of the odious Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and pledging to promptly take down copyrighted materials when notified of infringement.

Here's the latest court developments, and they should interest (read: worry) anyone interested in the free flow of information on the intertubes, via DailyTech:

As part of its $1 billion lawsuit against user-video site YouTube, Viacom will receive a complete log of all users' activities, which will include a list of usernames, IP addresses, and videos that each account has viewed in the past.

Viacom says it wants to use the data to prove that copyright-infringing videos draw higher amounts of traffic than user-generated and fully-legal content. If Viacom's hypothesis turns out to be true, it could increase penalties against YouTube if found liable for contributory copyright infringement.

The court order to turn over site logs came as part of a sweeping request by Viacom, where it attempted to acquire source code for the site's search engine and copyright video filter—which YouTube wrote as the result of previous litigation with copyright holders—as well as copies of YouTube parent Google's advertisement database schema, and copies of all videos on the site marked "private." U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton, who is presiding over the case in New York, struck down Viacom's other requests.

YouTube will, however, also have to produce information on how private videos are viewed, including information on who watched them and how many times.

More here.

reason on how the DMCA hurts the public interest here.

On intellectual property here.

NEXT: The New York City Mob

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  1. Like Abortion, Intellectual Property is one of those delightful issues where Libertarians spend most of their time shooting at each other and themselves (in the foot).

    This should be a fun thread.

  2. The best sign that a law is bad is that it’s unenforceable.

  3. The best sign that a law is bad is that it’s unenforceable ruins innocent people’s lives.

    And of course also your thing too.

  4. lmnop: Yours follows from mine; enforcement only ruins innocent people’s lives if the law is difficult (read: impossible) to enforce.

  5. I personally don’t see any big issues with the DMCA. The market has solved copyright issues and restrictions rather well, usually through alternative licensing (GPL, Creative Commons, etc.), so anyone who wants to release their copyrighted content into the wild has options to fine-tune any restrictions. And given how many people take advantage of limited copyright licenses or directly the public domain, I feel I have full choice between restricted and free content of the same or similar quality.

    The DMCA has, ironically, become useful in reigning in large copyright owners. These companies, wanting to have a loophole for themselves in the form of safe harbor (at the time DMCA was written by the lobbyists, media companies assumed they’d be the dominant content providers in the future), have instead placed a serious restriction on themselves, which somewhat leveled the playing field. Even though I tend to release all my stuff under Creative Commons licenses, I fully support ownership rights for copyright owners. Still, given Viacoms hypocrisy and its unwillingness to abide by the same rules it helped to create, I feel like siding with Google in this.

  6. Nigel —

    I don’t think that covers it. After all, it would be very easy to write absolutely unambiguous laws that fuck people over.

    For example, Drug Laws.

  7. When was the last time drug laws could be successfully enforced?

  8. Nigel —

    Dude, ask *anyone* whose been imprisoned because of them. There are, shall we say, quite a few to choose from.

  9. If on the other hand by successfully enforced you meant “achieved the policy aim of the legislation” I think one might be hard-pressed to come up with any unvarnished positive examples.

    Sort of an unfair standard for laws, I think.

  10. What’s next is that they’ll use those IP addresses to sue individual users, much the way the record industry sues those who listen to downloaded music.

  11. If Viacom’s sole purpose for requesting this information is to determine if they can sue Google for more, why couldn’t Google plead the 5th? I honestly have no clue about this (I can only assume that it doesn’t work or else they would’ve used it). Anybody know why?

  12. Happy Independence Day, fellow Resonoids! Here’s my YouTube page. Perhaps you should check it out out now in case lots of the swell vids are gonna be expunged soon.

  13. Because the 5th amendment is available in criminal, not civil, matters.

  14. ruins innocent people’s lives

    Oh yes, they forced me to remove my video and totally ruined my life!

  15. I think that all freedom-loving people should now endeavour to make RickRolls the #1 watched videos on YouTube, just to fuck over the Viacom lawyers.

  16. Put the URL of any YouTube vid on this site and it will download that vid to you computer for you.

  17. If this law leads to Weigel being imprisoned for posting all that prog-rock, then I’m all for it.

  18. Oh yes, they forced me to remove my video and enter bankruptcy and totally ruined my life!


  19. Telly,

    Then can you copy em onto a dvd and watch em on a TV?

  20. Rick Barton,

    I guess if that’s what you want to do

  21. My 12 year-old daughter loves to make music videos by cutting up episodes of Invader Zim and synching up scenes with her favorite songs. There are hundreds of kids out there doing this kind of thing.

    I honestly hadn’t known that kids were doing that. When I was her age we relied on MTV to give us videos. That seems pretty lame now.

    I’d hate to think that anything would come along and stifle this kind of creativity.

  22. Viacom can obtain all of my YouTube data here.

  23. Viacom is suing Google for providing free advertising for their products?


    Do they really think that someone watching a clip of The Daily Show on Youtube makes them less likely to buy the DVD?


    The record companies have a better case for that argument with free album downloads (free mp3’s has been demonstrated to impact sales of popular artists negatively, to impact obscure artists positively, for an overall negative impact on sales), but TV shows are a much different animal…as are music videos, which used to be distributed for the sole purpose of advertising the bands music.

    I disagree with the restrictions on fair-use in the DMCA, but I think J’s comments above are insightful.

  24. enforcement only ruins innocent people’s lives if the law is difficult (read: impossible) to enforce.

    Unless we adopt a circular/legalistic definition of “innocent,” this is plainly wrong.

    See, I think recreational pot smokers are innocent of any wrong-doing, but nonetheless millions of them have had their lives ruined by enforcement of an unjust law.

  25. Excellent, Rick…After perusing your many offerings, I am considering a screen-name change to Jocko Homo! LOL

  26. Thanks, HughAkston!

    Ah yes, Jocko Homo:

  27. More fine Devo…

    “Gates of Steel” (1980) LIVE

    (I just added it to my fave vids on my page)

  28. Hai friend;
    Youtube2mp3Downloader is an easy-to-use to
    convert Youtube videos in to mp3 and downloading
    in your pc .Good qualities mp3 in all mp3 players . Please go to

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