Google-Viacom Lawsuit Deal Cloaks YouTube User Identities

A deal struck this week lets Google cloak identities of YouTube users while complying with a court order to show Viacom the video-viewing habits of everyone who has ever used the popular website.

In a July 3 ruling, a federal judge backed US media conglomerate Viacom’s request for data on which YouTube users watch which videos on the website in order to support its case in a billion-dollar copyright lawsuit against Google.

Privacy advocates and fans of the globally popular video-sharing website were outraged by the court order.

But on Tuesday, US District Court Judge Louis Stanton signed off on an agreement by all parties in the lawsuit to allow Google to remove the names and identifying computer numbers of YouTube users from information it will provide Viacom, according to court documents.

According to the agreement filed in New York federal court, the “defendants shall substitute values while preserving uniqueness for entries in the following fields: User ID, IP (internet protocol) address and visitor ID.”

YouTube is to assign each user a unique number so that individual viewing patterns can be determined without necessarily being able to figure out who viewers are.

Viacom charges that Google, which bought YouTube in 2006, acts as a willing accomplice to internet users who put clips of Viacom’s copyrighted television programs on the popular video-sharing website.

The Viacom lawsuit has been merged with similar civil litigation being pursued by the England’s Premier League, which says soccer game clips are routinely posted on YouTube without authorization.

Google shields itself with 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, US legislation that says internet firms are not responsible for what internet users put on websites.

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