Q'n'A: Are Youtube users are royally screwed?

Q'n'A: Are Youtube users are royally screwed?

Summary: I've been reading the headlines today, and the main headlines on most of the top technology websites are about the YouTube/Google/Viacom saga. I'd like to call this: Youglecomgate, a potentially volatile situation hovers over the midst of everyone who has been on YouTube ever, so that's probably the majority of the globe.

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youtube-bat.pngI've been reading the headlines today, and the main headlines on most of the top technology websites are about the YouTube/Google/Viacom saga. I'd like to call this: Youglecomgate, a potentially volatile situation hovers over the midst of everyone who has been on YouTube ever, so that's probably the majority of the globe.

Not only that, students often use YouTube as a method of studying - using the facilities to learn, find information, but also unwind and have fun by watching stupid things. I'd like to run this through as a simple Q'n'A so hopefully people won't be as confused as I was when I first read this.

What does Google have to do with YouTube? Google bought YouTube without shedding a single note of cash, cheque or bank transfer in November 2006 by essentially buying over 3.2 million shares, as I understand it, to give it overall majority of the company. Once a company loses over 50% of the shares, the other shareholders can come together and form one company, thus out numbering the original company and taking majority of the company (thanks Dad for clueing me up on this one, I think I got it right) - so because Google owns YouTube, it very much makes it Google's problem.

Why is Google/YouTube being sued? Because Viacom, the company which brings you MTV, Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks studios, found its own copyrighted material on YouTube which other people had uploaded. Viacom own the rights to everything they and the companies it owns makes, and they end up losing money if other people can view it for free on YouTube.

Why don't Viacom sue the uploaders? There's far too many people to sue and it'd be too difficult to sue everyone. According to the BBC, Viacom found 160,000 copyrighted clips on YouTube which had been viewed over 1.5 billon times. Had this not happened, Viacom would have made a huge amount of profit, but have now obviously lost out.

In this case, they are suing Google because Viacom believe they are responsible for what is hosted on their own site. It's corporate responsibility all over again; if they can't control what is on their own servers, they should be held accountable, and this is exactly what's happening.

How does this effect affect me? This is the tricky bit. The US courts have asked (told) Google they must present every single record, of every single video ever watched. As you can imagine, this is a huge amount of data, but it also includes the usernames of those who watched the videos, the IP addresses which is your unique identifier on the Internet, as well as other information.

Those who have watched YouTube, are we royally screwed? There is very little risk, that I can see (I've researched this one), of repercussions towards YouTube users. For the time being, even though our identifiable information is being given away, there is little-to-none chance that legal action will be brought against users. Having said that, there is a chance it could happen. If Viacom wants to take Google to the cleaners, I dread to think what else could happen.

Are they allowed to do this? Yes. It's not fair, but even state and country boundaries don't count in this instance. I'm just as guilty as anyone else, watching Family Guy when I was bored at college. When you watch something on YouTube, you agree to Google's privacy policy, which states:

We use both your personally identifiable information and certain non-personally-identifiable information (such as anonymous user usage data, cookies, IP addresses, browser type, clickstream data, etc.) to improve the quality and design of the YouTube Sites and to create new features, promotions, functionality, and services by storing, tracking, analyzing, and processing user preferences and trends, as well as user activity and communications.

This is the information, all 12 terabytes of it (about 3 million MP3's), which will be presented to the courts. I presume Viacom wants it to compare it with other non-copyrighted videos - by proving that Viacom's copyrighted material is more popular, this would effectively put the nail in YouTube's coffin.

Surely this is a huge privacy concern? I am worried about this. I've seen quite a lot of things happen in my 20 year life - September 11th, the London bombings, the biggest loss of Government data ever, the biggest IP address change in history (IPv6), but this is something else completely. This really does worry me quite a lot.

Up to, or maybe just surpassing a billion people's identifiable information will be given away. This as far as I can tell, is the biggest "breach" of data protection, even though ironically it was ordered by a court.

People are talking about YouTube's source code... what? Viacom wanted access to the "brain" of YouTube, to actually look at the working mechanism behind how the site works. Google said that it's a trade secret, and shouldn't be given to anybody; the US court upheld this and agreed.

How have others reacted to this? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which sees about protecting people's rights on the Internet, said to the BBC:

"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."

They also stated quite strongly that this was a breach of the Video Privacy Protection Act, something I don't believe we have here in the UK. Considering the EFF have, and will continue, to decide to come up against huge corporations or even Governments, they're not really a force to be reckoned with.

What does Viacom get out of this? They are hoping to get, according to Wired, over $1 billion in damages from Google/YouTube, through allowing users to upload Viacom's copyrighted material to their servers. I guess that through the user logs they are getting, they may be able to come up with a more accurate figure for damages. Even though I don't agree with it, if this is the case then to some extent they're being fair at least.

What happens to YouTube after this? Considering a ruling hasn't been given yet, Google and YouTube may come off without a single scrape. However, there are many possible outcomes from this. YouTube could get shut down, Google could get fined to the nth degree, or maybe Google will get sued and it have a very minimal effect on YouTube and it carries on as it has done.

When will we know what happens? I don't know, but these things can take weeks, months, even years to sort out. This all started in March 2007, and it's nearly a year and a half since, so we could be looking at a bit of a wait yet.

Unlike the UK courts, you can read everything in this report, signed by the District Judge himself.

Topics: Browser, Google, Networking, Social Enterprise

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9 comments
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  • .....

    ?[B]Had this not happened, Viacom would have made a huge amount of profit, but have now obviously lost out.[/B]?

    Subjective speculation that is unsubstantiated.

    ?[B]YouTube could get shut down, Google could get fined to the nth degree, or maybe Google will get sued and it have a very minimal effect on YouTube and it carries on as it has done.[/B]?

    Possible, but then again other corporations in this nation that have done far worse when it comes to copyright violations didn't suffer egregious damages from the fines. In other words the fines were somewhat stiff but absorbent by the company.

    YouTube will carry on, if not in it's current incarnation, in another. Pandora's box is opened and YouTube isn't going back in.
    ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • Agreed

      [i]?Had this not happened, Viacom would have made a huge amount of profit, but have now obviously lost out.?

      Subjective speculation that is unsubstantiated.[/i]

      I agree. I don't have MTV. If I'm unable to watch the occasional music video on YouTube, that doesn't mean I'm going to switch my cable package to compensate.

      As is usually the case, there's quite a difference between reality and a plaintiff's claims.
      MGP2
  • YouTube has always been headed for this

    As long as there are copyrite laws, and as long as every user uploaded video isnt screened, I never really understood how YouTube could survive legally. Looks like the time has come.
    supercharlie
  • Demand and Supply. Basic economics 101

    I don't understand why Viacom didn't see this as an opportunity to make money. Surely if they released official videos on youtube (with adverts) and requested that Youtube gave them a cut each time it was watched.

    Instead they are trying to kill a market that has a great demand. It doesn't make any business sense. If there is a demand (there is), then surely you try and satisfy that demand AND make a buck from it.

    Idiots.
    Bozzer
  • I disagree with the "privacy breach" statement

    You are correct, it was given away. Given with the understanding that it will be used for no other purpose then what it is intended for in this court hearing.

    (if Google just tracked how many times a clip was viewed, and did not track your personal info forr themselves, this would be a non issue)

    Interesting too is the fact that Google collected alot of our personal information with help from Viacom?s illegally used content, So I think Viacom should have [i]some[/i] rights to that info.

    If Google started posting your articles without your permission, would you (or ZDNet) be happy? Google would be holding all the info associated with [i]your[/i] readers, not ZDNet. ZDNet would want their fair share of lost ad revenue (or whatever), I am sure

    [b]Those who have watched YouTube, are we royally screwed?[/b]

    I agree with you there: Not really. There is a term ?reasonable expectation?. If you purchase a shirt from your local Target store, and it is found that those shirts where stolen then sold to Target, you will not be held accountable as when shopping at a large established retailer, there is reasonable expectation that there is nothing nefarious about the origins of their products. Seeing that you are not privy to whether the content was legally placed on Youtube or not. To the best of your knowledge, the person obtained permission from the content owners to place it there.
    The expectation is on YouTube to ensure that it was there legally, not the viewer.
    GuidingLight
    • Napster all over again... The uploaders should pay

      The people who uploaded the content are the ones who broke the law. If YouTube does not force uploaders to agree that their content is legal, then the blame falls back to Google. Of course Google is still responsible since it is their server, but this is not that much different from Napster.

      Still, if any user is prosecuted, it should be users who uploaded illegal material not the users who viewed it.
      T1Oracle
  • Viacom is making a mistake

    "Viacom own the rights to everything they and the companies it owns makes, and they end up losing money if other people can view it for free on YouTube." Actually, I disagree with the logic here, and it's the same mistake Viacom is making.

    Everyone *assumes* that a company must be losing money if people can watch for free. Yet, as the writer even stated, "I???m just as guilty as anyone else, watching Family Guy when I was bored at college." I don't think it's going too far out on a limb to say that if Family Guy had not been available on YouTube, pretty much *nobody* would have gone out to buy it instead. Viacom wouldn't have lost money because people wouldn't have paid a cent to watch it in the first place. People watched it because they were bored and it was free/available, just like anything on "free TV."

    Rather, Viacom should be thanking YouTube because they've provided Viacom with a ton of free advertising. People watched Family Guy on YouTube, then changed their viewing habits to watch the show on TV (with a better picture/sound, and advertising) and even bought the DVD sets because they got hooked off of watching it first on YouTube while they were bored one day.
    DocMWood
  • RE: Q'n'A: Are Youtube users are royally screwed?

    Viacom can't sue everyone. If they do, well 1.5 billion views, $1 billion in damages,that is less than a dollar per person. Wow, what ever will i do? Also, the copyrighten videos i've seen have only been maybe 5 minutes of air time at most, i think these videos can be watched to get you more interested in purchasing the movie,show,etc.. The movie trailers don't do the movies justice. Viacom is only out to get money, they don't care about infringment. If they did, they would go after:
    Blennus
    Blip.tv
    Bofunk
    Bolt
    Break.com
    Castpost
    Current TV
    Dailymotion
    DevilDucky
    FindVideos
    Free Video Blog
    Google Video
    Grinvi
    Grouper
    iFilm
    LuluTV
    Metacafe
    Midis.biz
    Music.com
    MusicVideoCodes.info
    MySpace Video Code
    Newgrounds
    PcPlanets
    Pixparty
    Putfile
    REVVER
    Sharkle
    StreetFire
    That Video Site
    The One Network
    VideoCodes4U
    VideoCodesWorld
    VideoCodeZone
    vidiLife
    VIDNET.com
    Vimeo
    vSocial
    Web62.com
    ZippyVideos. These companies don't have the kind of money that youtube has, so in my opinion, it's Viacom that are the ones who are stealing.
    benjamin484
  • Takedown notices

    Youtube takes down videos when they are notified, so if Viacom knew about the uploading, shouldn't they have been notifying youtube all along.
    HooNoze