Piracy does not equal Privacy

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.

youtube_screwedUnsurprisingly, 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.


2 responses to “Piracy does not equal Privacy

  1. At last some intelligent commentary on this development. What I find interesting is the extreme double standard that exists in the minds of many internet users. Any perceived infraction against their own privacy, no matter how remote, is portrayed as completely unconscionable. Yet any attempts by owners of content to protect their interests, data, production or work is portrayed as digital fascism.

    In other words, internet uses can violate private property rights until the cows come home and any attempt to prevent that by content owners somehow violates the rights of internet users. It’s hypocrisy, plain and simple.

  2. Jenkem Junkie

    Even though I see myself as having a pretty tough stance on copyright violation myself and have also suffered as a result of peoples’ infringement, I have to disagree with a couple points here. First off, peer-to-peer file sharing requires intent, whereas merely surfing social networking profiles which happen to have copyrighted video embedded would place you in those logs, even though the video had nothing to do with your interest in viewing any particular page. Second, the proportion of illegal to legal content on peer-to-peer networks has never really been in question, it’s always been rather self-evident, yet the fact that in this case Viacom needs to analyze these logs in order to verify their position demonstrates that even they know there is a substantial amount of perfectly legal content available on the site and that its relative popularity is not immediately obvious. That’s not to mention that this order includes all the logs, including the producers and viewers of the legal content who, in my opinion and no doubt that of many others, have done absolutely nothing improper to warrant being dragged into this case.
    As for the case itself, I can’t see it having any benefit for Viacom aside from any settlement awarded. Generally, people don’t watch hour long programs or two to three hour movies by digging up 6 to 20 8 to ten minute low-quality streaming videos, they download full-length DVD-quality torrents. When the public perceive companies as acting too aggressively, it only makes the problem worse by replacing any guilt people might have felt otherwise with animosity and spite. I’m not arguing that this is fair and appropriate, but it is reality nonetheless, at least in my experience.
    Many other companies have managed to avoid infringement issues by modernizing, using video sharing sites as promotional tools themselves. In an ideal world that should be their choice, of course, but again the world is far from perfect and they have to account for the fact that if they don’t take advantage of emerging markets, somebody else is bound to do it for them, illegally, especially if they feel their own rights have already been violated by the rightful owner.

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