If you were off the grid last week celebrating the July 4th holiday, there were some important fireworks in the ongoing Viacom - Google/YouTube litigation well worth paying attention to.
Judge Louis Stanton of the US District Court in New York, who is presiding over the litigation, handed down an opinion that granted and denied some of what each party was requesting. The opinion is here. I have read it and below is my synopsis (remember I'm not a lawyer):
The fourth item is the one that has gained the most attention and controversy. Privacy advocates are ballistic that this is a violation of users' privacy rights. Specifically they have cited Judge Stanton's characterization of Google/YouTube's objection to this particular Viacom request on the basis of privacy concerns as "speculative." A cottage industry of ridicule has broken out across the blogosphere regarding whether the 80 year-old Judge Stanton is sufficiently tech literate to grasp online privacy concerns. Many believe Viacom will use the data to sue individual users for viewing pirated copies of Viacom's programs on YouTube.
Like everyone else, I'm concerned about privacy here as well and recognize that Judge Stanton has moved this case into some very slippery territory. Yet, at a higher level, I'm feeling some resentment toward Google and YouTube, especially given its famous "do no evil" mantra. There is no question that they knew pirated versions of key Viacom (and other) programs were showing up on YouTube, yet at the time months went by without them candidly addressing the issue and doing something sufficiently proactive about it. To many, including me, the standoff then was (and continues to be) a high-stakes battle between two multi-billion dollar companies jockeying for negotiating leverage.
When we use various web sites (whether for broadband or other uses), there is an implicit and explicit understanding that our privacy will not be trifled with. Sites have a right to defend their business practices based on their interpretation of the existing laws, but they need to be balanced by what impact their actions may ultimately have for their users. Each of us has our own interpretation of whether Google/YouTube should have done more to protect Viacom's and others' copyrights, but as Judge Stanton's decision shows, to what extent YouTube's users' privacy is protected is now entirely up to his interpretation.
What do you think? Post a comment and let everyone know!