Last week, in the latest round of legal wrangling over copyrighted material on YouTube, a judge ruled in Viacom’s favor and ordered Google to hand over the IP addresses, user names and viewing histories of all YouTube users – including all of us non-Americans who theoretically shouldn’t even be subject to U.S. law.
As far as I’m concerned, this is bad news – and not just because I’m embarrassed by my addiction to old episodes of America’s Next Top Model.
Yeah, yeah – I realize that watching copyrighted clips of TV shows and movies without permission is, technically, stealing. But if the police wanted to search your cupboard for stolen granola bars, they’d have to get a warrant – they can’t just search everyone’s cupboard simultaneously in the hope of finding some contraband. So why should YouTube viewing histories be any different? Whatever happened to privacy laws, anyhow?
According to Viacom, they’re not looking to prosecute individuals – only to prove that YouTube’s copyright-infringing content is more popular than its homegrown videos. If that’s the case, I don’t see why they haven’t acceded to Google’s request to anonymize the data – removing IP addresses and user names – before handing it over.
I’m a big fan of citizen journalism – and YouTube has become an important tool in the citizen journalist’s arsenal, and in making the happenings in this crazy world more and more accessible to all.
So if anyone at Viacom is listening, I say this: Back off. You’re messing with a lot more than my ANTM habit – you’re also robbing me of my privacy, and threatening to take away one of my means of connecting with the world. Both of those things mean a lot more to me than whatever sh*tty reality TV show you’ve just launched on MTV.
Hey, speaking of copyrighted material and bad reality TV, here’s an entertaining mash-up of the most over-used line in modern television: “I’m not here to make friends…”
(Hattip The Remote Island for the video)