back to article Google will anonymize YouTube data before sharing with Viacom

Sanity has prevailed in the Google-Viacom case. At least for the moment. Two weeks ago, wackadoo federal judge Louis L. Stanton ordered Google to share over 12TB of YouTube viewing records with Viacom, including account names and IP addresses. But yesterday, the two companies agreed that all personally identifiable info should …


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  1. James Butler
    Thumb Down

    So ...

    ... prior to the sanitizing, there was personally-identifiable information in Google's data?

  2. Jach

    Means of scrubbing

    Randomly go through the database and replace the IP address, username, other info with a number, increment, go to another row, etc.

    "Oh, let's sue user #2823 for watching this! Wait..."

  3. Steve Roper

    What about YouTube comments?

    What information is Google handing over, exactly? Is it just times, dates, videos watched or does it include user comments as well? If it does, then it may still be possible to identify some users from the comments they've left on the site - even if they don't identify themselves, other users might in response to them, eg:

    [Chicky101] I think your video sucks.

    [SlAmBoY] Hey Chicky101, what sux about it?

    In this scenario, even if the names [Chicky101] and [SlAmBoY] are replaced with [A1w4r3c6] and [d12X4P1] respectively, what about the name reference in the comment text? Further, if the copypigs at Viacom really wanted to track down users, there are tests that can be applied to analyse writing style and word usage, and correlate that to other postings across the Internet to track down users.

    So I'd be interested to know if the user comments are to be included in the information passed to Viacom. If they are, then the "scrubbing" is just a pointless sop to the privacy crowd. So if this is to be the case, expect a call from Viacom's lawyers pretty soon if you ever left a comment on YouTube!

  4. Alex Worm

    Copyright Infringement

    How in this instance are viewing records indicative of copyright infringement? I can understand that making a copy of some content and uploading it to youtube could infringe copyright, but if I'm just viewing the clip, I'm not making a copy. Or in simple terms, after watching the clip, I don't have a copy of it. So if viewing copyrighted material is illegal, then wouldn't reading a newspaper be illegal since that's copyrighted to the publisher, or is that okay since the publisher is granting people the right to read it. How about viewing a friends holiday snaps, that contain a picture of a billboard in the background?

    So can someone with a better understanding of copyright law explain how I'm breaking copyright when I view a video clip that I don't retain a copy of?

  5. tony trolle


    thinks it puts a copy on your hard drive. same as the kiddy porn watching.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    @Alex Worm

    It's not necessarily the viewers who are infringing on the copyright but YouTube/Gobble. The logs merely demonstrate that the copyrighted material has been viewed without permission and that, therefore, copyright has been infringed which as everyone knows it has. Gobble may just be trying to get a figure on how much it will cost them to stream anything from Viacom's archive but I say close down YouTube and hang 'em high! Flash video is now ubiquitous and the copyright holders now know there is a market on the net for almost everything they have,

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The idea isn't to sue users for watching. It's to prove that the majority of content viewed is clips from TV and Film rather than Darth Vader singing chocolate rain while he falls off his bike.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't matter...

    ...what the original intention of the data block provision is. If viewing pirateed YooNoob clips is, indeed, a violation of copyright, then once Viacom have finished nailing gobble's balls to a plank, they can come after the viewers if there is any way of identifying them. If Viacom could be trusted not to exploit the data for purposes other than finding out how much Google have made out of their copyright material, the issue of viewer anonymity would be moot.

  9. Adam Foxton

    Why can't they just

    issue a load of takedown requests like everyone else? If google ignore them, then fair enough sue the arse off them. But if they comply, you've stopped the evil pirates and Google have lost ad revenue they were getting from the pirated video.

  10. Andrew Moore Silver badge


    I notice there's no ruling on how the data is to be given to Viacom. Youtube should just print it all and hand them the printout. They could also make an environmental issue out of it- "Viacoms demands for this information lead to two forrests being destroyed..."

  11. Nigel Kneale

    A side thought: what's wrong with my idea?

    First of all, assume the worst happens and YouTube gets whacked severely, and that YouTube et al are held responsible for content streamed from their archives.

    How about this for a Plan B?:

    1) YouTube et al are forced to clear out their archive and start again. (I know, I know, but bear with me...)

    2) The old Google Video method is introduced - all videos to be pre-screened by site staff before being allowed to be published on the site.

    Knock-on effect #1: The rate of uploads would need to be throttled. This could be managed by limiting the amount of active users at any time, ironically like UKNova does (did?). If a user doesn't upload anything for a month, then his upload priviledges are given to someone else (but his videos stay up on the site).

    Knock-on effect #2: YouTube would have to employ staff to pre-screen videos. This could either be paid for by ads, or a small subscription fee paid by the uploaders.

    Knock-on effect #3: YouTube wouldn't have the man-power to handle all of #2 at the current upload rate, so the effective YouTube monopoly would be broken by other video streaming sites being formed to take up the slack. Video search engines along the lines of the current Google Video search model would effectively unify them in the eyes of the video browsers. Even a unified commenting method could be introduced.

    Knock-on effect #4: YouTube et al minimize their risks whilst also allowing people to upload their skateboarding dogs and blog videos and maintaining free speech.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  12. Mark
    Paris Hilton


    Ok, so you find out from the data that user #2183 is uploading one of your movies.

    You then go onto Youtube and search for the title of the upload, and lo and behold, you get the users handle and you can find out if they've uploaded some personal info to make him identifiable....

    Paris, because being on Youtube did wonders for her 'career'

  13. The Mole


    Generally copyright law is interpretted as saying that if copyrighted information is in transit then you aren't infringing the law but if it is stored for a period of time then you potentially are. When playing content out on your computer your computer is storing a copy of the content firstly in ram, and then secondly in the video buffer, you may not have a long term persistent copy but you have still made a copy. Some judges in some countries (can't remember the exact details) have decided that because internet routers use "store and forward" (ie they receive a packet into a buffer then send it on after it has all been received) then they are in fact copying the packet rather than there is a small but measurable period of time where the packet is not in transit and is in fact being stored.

    So the answer is yes if you are watching content on you tube then you are infringing copyright. (By buying a newspaper or having an article published on el reg there is a legitimate expectation that you have permission to view it (and make any copies necessary to do so, you don't have a reasonable expectation of that on you tube). The key thing to remember is that copyright infringement is NO theft. None commercial Copyright infringment is a civil infraction not a criminal case so you can only be done for damages. While copyright holders can easily argue that by sharing content they get lost sales with a value of XXX it is a lot harder to argue that the individaul person would have paid to see it and even if they succeed they can only claim damages for a relatively small amount (although they can also try and claim for costs which won't be so small!)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sue me?

    Are viacom going to sue me for watching videos?

    I guess this is more for viewing figures and how much in "damages" they should claim. So definately no need for them to have personal information.

    IP Address might not be considered personally identifiable, but there is definately no reason for viacom to request this if its for the latter.

    Anyways, we might as well close down the internet, viacom = wankers.

  15. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: Sue me?

    Nothing to do with the Internet itself, more that a small minority of wankers persist in using well-meaning services to illegally share stuff to which someone else holds the copyright.

    Whatever happens it won't close down the internet. It may possibly close down YouBoob though. This will be a disaster as loads of sad bastards will be out down the pub rather than stuck at home watching YouBoob videos while their Mum watches telly downstairs.

    I'd be extremely surprised if Viacom go after the watchers (too many, too little ROI from the legal process). I'd suspect that they may go after the uploaders if they can come up with a few persistant offenders who are likely to be forced to pay a significant amount in restitution by the courts. They will go after YouGoogle itself if they find, as expected, that they're effectively running a free Internet TV station multicasting a significant amount of commercial content.

    Whatever happens, the Internet itself will still be here, unchanged. With or without skateboarding dogs and arseholes miming to the sound of popular beat combos.

  16. Soruk
    Paris Hilton

    If they want it in electronic format

    Old tapes and/or discs from mainframe machines - the sort of things that need a large van to shift and hold a few 10s of Mbytes. Bonus points for requiring a pre-1990's machine to access them.

    Paris, because even she knows how to deliver the goods.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I asked because the article says _viewing records_

    I doubt they are going to sue me, I was being sarcastic. That was my point as to why they don't need it.

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