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The Nightfall of Independence

Jul. 4th, 2008 | 03:37 pm
mood: angryangry

Today is now technically July 4, 2008, the date on which many Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately, today is not a good day for either liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

As some of you may have known, there was a lawsuit Viacom filed against YouTube for presenting a service that has continued to permit and enable copyright infringement without taking significant steps to cub this practice. Well, a judge has made a ruling with regard to this case -- YouTube must hand over sensitive data with regard to every public video that has been hosted on the site. I'm not exaggerating on this one. In addition, Viacom wants every video that has been taken down, regardless of the reason, and the judge has granted that request.

Although the blog entry above does contain a distinct slant, I don't think that Michael Arrington or many of the other prominent bloggers writing about this subject are overreacting. While later reports have stressed that YouTube does not have to hand over usernames, real names, or e-mail addresses, the scope of the amount of information that is to be transferred is absurd and possibly illegal. Contrary to what the mainstream media has been spinning it, this isn't just incidental information such as the number of hits or information limited to what is necessary to prove its case. Viacom wants IP addresses, timestamps, and other identifying details of anyone who accessed a public YouTube video. This even exceeds what the RIAA sought in its lawsuits, as this information does not target merely active sharers or even people who have YouTube accounts, but anyone who has EVER come across a YouTube video, even one that is embedded in another site.

I will admit some people are making a big deal about Google/YouTube collecting all this information in the first place. I think that it's a little shortsighted to fault YouTube for doing this. Set aside the profit motive and the necessity of this information for operation of the site, if they didn't collect this information, they would be potentially liable for far more than copyright infringement, and it would be a very clear cut case for a judge to shut YouTube down.

I also think that the outrage over the loss of privacy is a little bit inflated. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have the "right" to be completely anonymous on the Internet, and people who have viewed a video on YouTube have used its services as much as those who upload. More importantly, though, YouTube is legally compelled to comply with the law.

The real problem is the fact that the judge has ruled in a manner that goes against all traditional legal thought on this matter. It's one thing to record information and share it with your friends and to willingly engage in a communal diary. It's another thing for the state to demand that you turn over that diary to the plaintiff along with DNA and writing samples of anyone who has ever read or written in this diary, who is suing to find out if any of the entries are illegal. Normally, you have to have something called probable cause and point to certain passages that would at least warrant a further examination. Making an accusation without sufficient proof then asking for the material not even related to the case is unreasonable. Granting the use of that material in the name of the law is unethical given the nature of the complaint, and quite possibly unconstitutional.

And this attitude is infectious. If the judge can overstep, what is to stop Viacom from overstepping its own bounds? Why would they want to know the content of all deleted videos and not just those that were removed to the violation of its copyright? Why would they want to know the habits of people who visit YouTube who are not logged in? What if a video were removed for privacy reasons? By giving that video to Viacom, isn't that violating the privacy of the affected parties without their consent?

Worst yet, what's lost in the privacy issue is the fact that the copyright infringement complaint itself is scarily vague. YouTube has both a size and length limit for several reasons, the most important of which is to thwart people posting whole shows and movies produced by major television and motion picture studios. That's not to say that people don't do it at all, but the inherent limits lean toward use of the service that would fall under the defense of fair use or parody. An isolated five second or even five minute clip of hours of material provided for no monetary gain is considered an infringement as grand as the uploading the every episode Star Trek: Voyager. Viacom could sue someone because he or she watched the SpongeBob Souljah Boy parody, and given the limited legal resources of most people, the company would win.

I'm not going to to anything drastic like delete my YouTube account. First of all it would be pointless as they already have information on me that will be shared with the big V. Second, I am not foolish enough to realize my actions by themselves would have any effect on the Viacom. However, I am not going to go to any Paramount movies (as well as Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, etc) for the forseeable future. They were very lucky Iron Man came out before this mess. I will not pay one dime to see the movie on DVD, or any other of the moving pictures that have or will come out unless something changes.

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Comments {11}

Wow........

from: No Name Person
date: Jul. 5th, 2008 04:20 am (UTC)
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You know all of this crap from big media companies crying foul over people using their content is really getting to the point of being overkill. Between this and music companies they are really trying to make it seem like they are going hungry or getting their houses foreclosed on due to people "stealing" their content via the Internet.

I can see wanting to have some form of control over your created content but, at a point it is starting to be the big companies against the people who one would assume they want as consumers. The fact is the amount of garbage they have been putting out and over-charging people for going on years now has pushed this whole mindset to where it is now.

In New York City a movie cost 12 fucking dollars and they had the nerve to have commercials playing before the movie. Add to that the fact that almost all movies that come out now are later released on DVD "Uncut" and it almost makes it seem like you paid to see something that was cut down for whatever reason and you have pay again later to see the rest.

In any case You-Tube is going to end up like Napster since the sad fact is if you really are going to be posting up content that belongs to someone else at this point don't advertise it. The minute you become to successful at it they will get the law on your ass.

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Nangbaby

Yes, I'm still mad...

from: nangbaby
date: Jul. 6th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)
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Man, I can't help but say that I agree completely. It's one thing to protect one's content. It's another to suggest copyright infringement because someone recorded a video and the TV played part of an episode of a Nickelodeon cartoon in the background.

This to me, though, is actually far, far worse than RIAA vs Napster. While I don't agree with the copyright holders in either case, there is at least a semblance of an argument against Napster, given that it is something you have to opt in to use. A user is very unlikely to "accidentally" click on a link and start downloading material that is functionally similar in quality to that of the original product.

YouTube, at OPTIMUM conditions, provides a vastly inferior to the original material, if not in picture, then in MONO sound (usually). Anyone who is actually participating in a fair amount of "piracy" isn't using YouTube. Rather, most people who do come across those "precious" copyrighted materials are casual fans, curious people, and people who have no malicious, profit making, or reciprocal interest. Heck, even though I haven't shared any of my video game videos via other services, I can imagine actually harder to rip something and place it on YouTube because you have to compress like mad to get it to a proper size. Most people want something that is high quality, which even with the best compression would not be available on YouTube.

More troubling is that YouTube, as a site, is a more passive exchange. Given the amount of spam out there and the links contained within those e-mails, it is very possible that a YouTube video containing Viacom copyrighted material will get a lot of repeated views from unwitting people -- people, I might add, who are now at risk of getting sued because of being redirected because of some spammer who has spoofed his headers and makes tracking him or her down very difficult, leaving the recipient of the e-mail (as well as the person whose headers the spammer forged) holding the bag.

That's not even getting into the whole "search every video that's been taken down for ANY reason" aspect. If it were the government itself that asked for it, that would be bad enough, but probably legal because of President Jerkoff. But for a judge to blindly grant this request to a PRIVATE company who is looking for specific instances of copyright infringement is making Bush look like a choir boy. I mean, is the judge ignorant to the likelihood that most of that stuff is probably porn and Saddam Hussein hanging videos and the like? Judge Stanton, you've given the "independent" reviews an excuse to get their jollies (or lose their lunch) while they do their investigating.

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Re: Yes, I'm still mad...

from: No Name Person
date: Jul. 7th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC)
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Yeah, it really is not like anyone is downloading an entire movie on YouTube for people to watch. This whole thing probably has some other agenda behind it aside from people watching a DVR'd episode of some Viacom show. VCR's have been around for decades and there wasn't this furor over things being copied and taped without their consent.

This also has allot to do with the out of control corporations and what they are constantly being allowed to get away with. Many people have said that cable is almost illegal since people now have to pay for what was free before. The sticky part now though seems to be the fact that since there are no "airwaves" so to speak that the whole definition of what is owned and what is public has gone out the window. Allowing the Internet to stay so unregulated would put them back in such a position and you know Viacom is hurting for money so every dime counts.

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from: No Name Person
date: Jul. 10th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
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Also, you might want to consider:

http://www.scholarsandrogues.com/2008/07/03/youtube-viacom-lawsuit-poses-a-threat-to-more-than-just-civil-liberties/

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evil_kieben

from: evil_kieben
date: Jul. 11th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
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We are doomed.

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I should say

from: No Name Person
date: Aug. 10th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
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Very nice!!

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Nangbaby

Re: I should say

from: nangbaby
date: Aug. 21st, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Thanks.

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thanks much

from: No Name Person
date: Sep. 25th, 2008 06:54 am (UTC)
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omg.. good work, brother

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Nangbaby

Why, hello...

from: nangbaby
date: Sep. 30th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC)
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It's "sister," but thanks.

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Amazing page.

from: No Name Person
date: Oct. 9th, 2008 08:15 am (UTC)
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favorited this one, guy

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Nangbaby

Re: Amazing page.

from: nangbaby
date: Oct. 9th, 2008 06:16 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, but I wonder where all this attention is coming from.

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