Great news came out his week regarding internet video. Google has been ordered to provide Viacom the log files of YouTube users. This data will be used to prove that copyright infringing videos are the significant majority of content actually watched, demonstrating that YouTube’s traffic and success is built on piracy instead of user generated content. Viacom has stated that this data will not be used to target and bring charges against individuals, and in fact the company will be held in contempt of court if it uses the data for anything beyond determining the popularity of pirated content.
Unsurprisingly, much of the media is up in arms on privacy concerns and the influential nonprofit advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released strong criticism. The top issue is the belief that the collected user name and IP address could be used to identify individuals, however the court used Google’s own data retention policies to justify its order. I did find this civil disobedience suggestion on TechCrunch amusing though.
Personally, I think our country must come to terms with the fact that anything you do online can be seen by others. Privacy on the Internet is a joke and goes against the open, unwalled garden theme in which the internet was designed. I do not know how to hack, but I have the ability and tools at my disposal to locate a wealth of information about anyone I want. Businesses for a few years now have used the internet as a type of background check for potential hires. The information is there, the true issue is perhaps what people do with their time when they think no one is watching. Well, people are watching. What videos you watch really is not infringing on your privacy. If there is a battle to fight, it is figuring ways to securely transfer financial data digitally. To my earlier premise though, this may be a pipe dream.
I feel confident in what Viacom will find in this discovery process. People use YouTube to find short clips of pirated content. Want to see a quick clip of the Birthday Cake dunk you heard about or Beckham’s highlight real? Thanks to YouTube this is simple, unfortunately it violates copyrights. As a user, I do not care how I see it as long as I can see it now. Mark Cuban was always right about the demise of YouTube, but in its ashes will grow a legal way for users to locate this content and much like new services coming out that deliver full TV episodes, it will probably have significantly better video quality too. YouTube is the Napster of video. It changed the way we use the internet, but it will not reap the benefits because its base is rooted in piracy. RIP YouTube.