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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Viacom Vs. Google Over YouTUBE Videos: Federal Judge Orders Google To Disclose Millions That Were Removed

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A federal judge in New York is ordering Google to turn over copies of more than a million videos that were once available on YouTube but were removed for any reason, including complaints of copyright infringement. U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton also instructed Google to hand over "all data from the Logging database concerning each time a YouTube video has been viewed on the YouTube website or through embedding on a third-party website."

The ruling means Viacom International -- the corporate parent of MTV, BET, Paramount Pictures and the Comedy Channel -- will have access to millions of removed videos to pursue its copyright violation lawsuit. And it will learn how many people watched, and possibly the identities of those who watched. It will also be able to find out which blogs and websites linked to the videos. Google contended the identifying data should not be disclosed because of privacy concerns. Its lawyers argued Viacom "would likely be able to determine the viewing and video uploading habits of YouTUBE's users based on the user's log-in ID and the user's IP address."

Stanton's ruling was issued this week. The judge said he did not agree that individuals would be identified. The complete text of his 25-age decision is available on the Citizen Media Law Project web portal. Here's what the judge said about the removed videos:

"Plaintiffs seek copies of all videos that were once available for public viewing on but later removed for any reason, or such subsets as plaintiffs designate. Plaintiffs claims that their direct access to the removed videos is essential to identify which, (if any) infringe their alleged copyrights. Plaintiffs offers to supply the hard drives needed to received those copies, which defendants store on computer hard drives.

"Defendants contend that 'Plaintiffs should have some type of access to removed videos in order to identify alleged infringements," but propose to make plaintiffs identify and specify the videos plaintiffs select as probable infringers by use of data such as their titles and topics and a search program (which defendants have furnished) that gives plaintiffs the capacity both to run searches against that data and to view 'snapshots' taken from each removed video. That would relieve defendants of producing all of the millions of removed videos, a process which would require a total of about five person-weeks of labor without unexpected glitches, as well as the dedication of expensive computer equipment and network bandwith.

"However, it appears that the burden of producing a program for production of all of the removed videos should be roughly equivalent to, or at least not significantly grater than, that of producing a program to create and copy a list of specific videos selected by plaintiffs.

"While the total number of removed videos is intimidating (millions, according to defendants), the burden of inspection and selection, leading to the identification of individual 'works-in-suit,' is on the plaintiffs who say they can handle it electronically. Under the circumstances, the motion to compel production of copies of all removed videos is granted."

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