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Author Topic: Viacom vs. Google  (Read 2950 times)

Ehtyar

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Viacom vs. Google
« on: August 24, 2008, 08:15:02 PM »
Hi all.
Now before you read the rest of this post, a few warnings (in fact it should probably be more like a disclaimer so i don't get sued for wasting your time, but whatever). This post is going to be long, exhaustive, and very b&tchy. If you happen to have a heart condition, or your eyes suffer from RSI, please leave immediately. Also, i make no claim as to being unbiased in this rant, though I have done my best to source my claims with valid links.

Now onto the potentially interesting bits. For those of you who are unaware of the Viacom vs. Google shenanigan (josh said i can't use naughty words) not only do you *really* need to read the news more, but this post is for you. For those of you already familiar with this shenanigan, you can read the rest and perhaps find out more about it, or leave because your sciatica may flare up from sitting and reading this long.

During February last year, the managerial team at Viacom (who own a LOT of stuff) decided that they should have a blitz on takedown notices. This blitz included approximately 100,000 takedown notices to youtube demanding removal of material that Viacom deemed and infringement of their copyright (as a point of interest, these takedowns included a handful of false positives). Apparently Viacom will be last to aknowlege benefits of having their material spready via youtube[1][2][3][4][5].

So anyway, a few months down the track Viacom decide they want a piece of this pie (perhaps rightly so, but I'm biased) and thus launch their own free media website. Viacom concurrently decide that Google (who owns youtube) should be policing youtube content themselves to save Viacom the trouble of sending takedowns[1][2], despite the fact that the DMCA places the responsibility squarely on Viacom for doing so.

Shortly afterward, the apparently overworked bean counters at Viacom are struck by the realization that this new free media website is likely to cost them some of their $12 billion revenue. "But why?" they ask themselves, we're pissed at youtube, why not sue them an 11th of our yearly revenue, otherwise known as $1 billion, that would sure save us some cash....

So anyway, bickering between the two companies continues in the court of public opinion eventuating in Viacom agreeing to better review its takedowns prior to sending them. During this period Viacom's CEO makes some (void sarcasm() {)very popular (}) speeches regarding the way that copyright should be handled by corporate America (sidenote). I also feel it is worth pointing out that whilst Viacom are happily suing Google for $1 billion for being in breach of Viacom's copyright online, apparently the writers of the content aren't entitled to any of the apparent profit garnered from online content.

Earlier this year, Viacom decided it also wanted punitive damages from Google for the copyright breaches. Fortunately U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton was good enough to educate Viacom's litigators in copyright law. It's also worth pointing out that applying punitive damages in this case would have cost an amount akin to the GDP of many-a midsized nation, or what this article refers to as "funny money territory" (I prefer "funny money territory", but I can't be running around infringing copyright like that now can i?).

Continuing the lawsuit, Viacom claim that Google/YouTube were active participants in the transmission of copyrighted content, and thus cannot have the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA applied to them. Meanwhile, Viacom and Universal agree that virtually everyone but themselves should be responsible for propping up their obsolete business model.

Last month, in a stunning display of hypocrisy, Viacom sent a takedown to youtube, demanding removal of a viral video started by artists working for one of Viacom's child companies to promote a new movie. Shortly afterward, another was started, by Viacom, this time on limewire. As a side note, Viacom was told shortly afterward that it would be better off if it lost the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, Viacom made an attempt to get hold of YouTube source, only to be shot down in court, with Judge Stanton upholding that YouTube source was a Google trade secret, and could not be revealed without risking loss of business. Perhaps we might add massive conflict of interest to that comment, given Viacom is currently trying to make good on their promise of a free media website. But this time, they came back kicking, and have demanded Google turn over logs of every video ever watched on YouTube, which would include the usernames and IP addresses of those concerned[1]. Fortunately, Google was granted the right to anonymize the data before handing it over to Viacom prior to the exchange taking place. In an interesting twist of fate, Viacom were in fact most interested in what Google employees were watching...information that Google was not intending to hand over under the prior arrangement. On a side note, as the lawsuit continues, Viacom continue to send bogus takedowns to YouTube, in breach of prior arrangement.

Now to hit the ball from the other side of the court. Can someone please explain to me why, as a company that apparently has user privacy at the core of its concerns here, Google happens to be retaining 12 terabytes of YouTube logs complete with IP addresses and user IDs? Now I know everyone gets upset when you rant about Google, either from the offensive side ("Oh, you're being naive.") or from the defensive side ("Duh, Google is out to get us!") but really, when you read that last sentence, do you really feel comfortable watching videos at YouTube anymore? What on earth could a company who seems to portray the ideal that the sun shines out of its servers be doing with 12 terabytes of server logs that might serve the greater good? I realize it is naive of me to expect them not to, but even so, does Google's defense here not sound in the least bit hypocritical to anyone?

As a final note, you can see the reactions of YouTubers to this lawsuit here, here and here.

Allow me to finally apologize if anyone has been offended in any way by this article, and to request that any information misrepresented in this article be pointed out to me in a reply.

Thanks for reading, Ehtyar.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2008, 04:02:51 AM by Ehtyar »

Lashiec

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Re: Viacom vs. Google
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2008, 02:31:49 PM »
There's no real good explanation for YouTube keeping such logs. Everyone already knows that most big sites do the same, so in a way it's OK, it's not right, but what are you going to do? Sue them? Ignore the sites? (which is feasible up to certain point, considering you encounter Google everywhere).

In a way, it's not a bad thing they're keeping such logs. There are tons of companies keeping data about you, most of the times without you knowing it. So does the government. The problem is that all these companies, and the public administration do this under strict policies, and more or less you have an idea of why they would want it. But what's the explanation of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, etc.? Yeah, there's the usual "we use the combined data, which in no way can be traced back to you, to improve our services and thus make things easier to you". That's nice and everything, but there's no need to link my searching, viewing, clicking, etc. habits to an ID, I mean, to improve searching results I hardly doubt there's a reason to do this. In the case of YouTube, perhaps in the future they intend to release a new service that makes personalized video recommendations, but Last.FM collects the data about the music you like once you signed into the service and after the service is operative.

It's cool to see Google protecting their users rights, but those rights also include knowing what the hell all the aggregated data is used for. The lack of transparency with Google is astounding, not near Apple levels of course, but it's quite baffling to see things failing, all these privacy issues, and not a single world telling us what's happening. One would say that no explanation is better than PR-explanations, but a company as hated in these cases as Microsoft usually makes good explanations when software fails or issues arise. Perhaps it's also a trade secret to reveal such uses, who knows.

Also, I wonder why Viacom is getting such logs, but not Google employees logs. If you work there, are you exempt of such tracking? Or perhaps Google thinks their employees are more important than their users? Hmmm.... Bah, the most probable answer is that some higher-up is looking at nasty things during his work :P

As for all the Viacom acts, it's just another case of a corporation unable to adapt fast to a changing world, hitting the wrong keys. The funny thing is that they're failing at all levels, conscious consumers hate them for these practices, and the rest ignore them, doing whatever they want, either watching content on YouTube or obtaining it from more dubious sources.

Ehtyar

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Re: Viacom vs. Google
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2008, 04:03:43 PM »
Also, I wonder why Viacom is getting such logs, but not Google employees logs. If you work there, are you exempt of such tracking? Or perhaps Google thinks their employees are more important than their users? Hmmm.... Bah, the most probable answer is that some higher-up is looking at nasty things during his work :P
Naturally you make good points Lash man, though my theory here is that Viacom were planning to prove that Google employees were aware of copyright infringing content and did nothing about it, thereby winning their $1 billion case against them. I also believe that this was their motivation behind attempting to get a copy of YouTube source.

I also found this interesting bit from this article on Wired.
Quote
Viacom also requested YouTube's source code, the code for identifying repeat copyright infringement uploads, copies of all videos marked private, and Google's advertising database schema.

I'm afraid i can't express my opinion regarding this because it would contain far too many vulgar expletives.

Ehtyar.