Google and Viacom Deal Protects YouTube Users

17 July 2008

NEW YORK: Google has reached an agreement with Viacom that it will not have to include personal information about YouTube users  in the data it is handing to the entertainment giant's lawyers as part of a copyright lawsuit.

YouTube was instructed by a federal judge two weeks ago to provide data logs to Viacom's lawyers  as part of a $1 billion lawsuit which accuses the video-sharing website of "massive intentional copyright infringement".

Viacom argues not enough is being done to prevent viewers watching copyrighted material uploaded without permission.

It says it needs the YouTube data – which can only be viewed by lawyers and experts advising the company – to establish how often its material has been watched.

Privacy groups, however, have voiced concern that this information could be used to identify the videos seen by surfers and even the individual computers used.

The new agreement allows for the replacement of personal details (such as log-in names and IP addresses) with numbers or other symbols which cannot be linked to individuals.

Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer for internet privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the deal "significantly reduced the user privacy concerns", but "did not fully resolve these concerns, since it leaves the court's order on the books, and can be changed by a new agreement between the parties".

The agreement does not cover YouTube employees, which could allow Viacom to see if they have been watching copyrighted material.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff