Still trying to wrap my head around this whole YouTube ruling. Especially in light of what Congress, now with a single digit approval rating, has just decided with respect to telecom immunity. What is clear, infopeeps, is its similarity to the situation faced by libraries since 9/11: requests for patron circulation habits and records.
Quick…blame Jon Stewart!
The order comes as part of a $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit brought against YouTube’s owner, Google, by Viacom, the media company that owns large cable networks such as MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon. Viacom alleges that YouTube encourages people to upload significant amounts of pirated copyrighted programs and that users do so by the thousands, profiting YouTube and Google. It wants to prove that pirated videos uploaded to the site — video clips of Jon Stewart‘s “The Daily Show,” for instance — are more heavily viewed than amateur content.
The article goes on to mention the staedfast assurances that Viacom will not go after individual users, but rather compare copyrighted vs. non-copyrighted content, Google has taken the library stance:
“We are pleased the court put some limits on discovery, including refusing to allow Viacom to access users’ private videos and our search technology,” Google senior litigation counsel Catherine Lacavera said in a statement. “We are disappointed the court granted Viacom’s overreaching demand for viewing history. We will ask Viacom to respect users’ privacy and allow us to anonymize the logs before producing them under the court’s order.”
Nice middle road approach, I suppose. But how reliable is that anonymizing?
But making the records anonymous is not fail-safe. In 2006, an AOL researcher inadvertently posted three months’ worth of searches typed in by 650,000 anonymous AOL users. Although their identities were masked — each user was given a randomly generated unique identification number — the search terms, which included names, home towns and interests, could be collated and used to identify a person, as an enterprising New York Times reporter showed.
Forget IP information, user addresses, and unique logins for a second. Did anyone even consider that one’s search terms can be studied to understand online research/viewing patterns? Subtle and far fetched, perhaps, but it is indeed a behind-the-scenes method for piecing together a user’s zigsaw puzzlery of searching patterns.
Disturbing thought…will this decision get society, and ultimately librarians (preferably in reverse order) to shift this debate focusing on clarifying copyright before it’s necessary to invade privacy? We’re a motley lot, us ‘brarians…do we have the attention span for that? I guess it’s just easier for Viacom to get the data than think about fair use. Does ALA have a response to the ruling?
Meld this to your minds, infomaniacs…is it not ironic how fake news so powerfully informs people to the extent they are frenzied to embrace such online havoc?
Jon Stewart is powerful indeed.