A lot of us block YouTube access in our schools. There's plenty of objectionable content worth hiding from young eyes. Probably an equal number of us, however, leave it open at the request of teachers who use its vast resources for teaching (yes, there is more than zit popping and skate videos on YouTube) or because it's an easy way for kids to share content they create at home and at school.
So in comes media giant Viacom, alleging that huge amounts of MTV and Paramount movie content are illegally floating about YouTube. While Google implemented copyright filtering tools on YouTube in response to the suit, a federal court ruled that Google still needed to turn over 12 terabytes of usage data to Viacom. According to a BBC article on the issue,
The viewing log, which will be handed to Viacom, contains the log-in ID of users, the computer IP address (online identifier) and video clip details.
While the legal battle between the two firms is being contested in the US, it is thought the ruling will apply to YouTube users and their viewing habits everywhere.
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but a lot of people watch videos on YouTube. While Viacom claims that it only wants the logs to determine if more people, in the aggregate, watch videos that infringe on copyrights than original materials, there is nothing to stop Viacom from using the data RIAA-style to go after users.
What if teachers in your schools showed a video they found on YouTube that contained content from an MTV broadcast? Or a documentary produced by a Viacom property? This is not a call I want to receive:
Hello, this is Ima Sleasylawyer. I represent Viacom. We have records associating your school's IP address with 8,397 viewings of materials that infringe on Viacom copyrights. We will be forwarding you the logs and need you to produce user documentation.
Nice. Chances are we won't get any calls like this, but it does beg the question, "Can we justify leaving YouTube unblocked in the face of potential litigation?" I'm not sure of the answer. If it's just keeping kids from watching raunchy videos, I don't mind leaving that to teachers supervising their classes. If it comes to teachers unwittingly showing videos that infringe on copyrights (maybe even videos created by students), then I'm a bit more uncomfortable about exposing teachers and the district to that level of potential liability. What do you think?