July 10 – July 17, 2008 Edition

Court Rules Google

Must Give Youtube

User Data to Viacom

SAN FRANCISCO/7/4/08­ Google has been ordered by a US judge to expose to Viacom the video-viewing habits of everyone who has ever used YouTube. The decision has been condemned by the Internet giant and privacy advocates. The story about the court decision broke July 3 on Agence France Presse (AFP), a news service that has had its own legal battles with Google for Google’s use without payment of AFP’s news stories in its Google News columns.

"US District Court Judge Louis Stanton backed Viacom’s request for data on which YouTube users watch which videos on the website in order to support its case in a billion-dollar copyright lawsuit against Google.

Viacom charges Google, which bought YouTube in 2006, acts as a willing accomplice to Internet users who put clips of Viacom’s copyrighted television programs on the popular video-sharing website, the AFP story said.

"We are disappointed the court granted Viacom’s overreaching demand for viewing history," Google senior litigation counsel Catherine Lacavera told AFP in an email Thursday.

According to the AFP article, Stanton brushed aside privacy concerns on Tuesday while ordering Google to give Viacom log-in names of YouTube users and Internet protocol (IP) addresses identifying which computers they used for viewing videos.

Stanton contends that Viacom needs more than pseudonyms and IP numbers that are tantamount to addresses on the Internet to identify individual YouTube users.

Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kurt Opsahl called the court’s ruling a significant reversal to privacy rights. Read the full AFP story. (ironically on the Google News site).

Google calls the lawsuit an attack on the Internet; Viacom argues that the California-based Internet search giant and especially its subsidiary YouTube are involved in "massive" copyright infringement, the AFP says.