Viacom, Google To Shield User Names


Viacom and Google reached an agreement that will keep anonymous the names of millions of YouTube users contained in the data that the search giant turns over as part of Viacom's copyright-infringement litigation.

Google, in a statement on the YouTube site, spun the joint agreement as a victory in its efforts to protect users' privacy: “Viacom, MTV and other litigants have backed off their original demand for all users' viewing histories, and we will not be providing that information.”

But Viacom, in a statement, maintained that the media company “has not asked for and will not be obtaining any personally identifiable information of any YouTube user.”

The statement from Viacom, which owns MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures and other content companies, said, “We are committed to a process that will not only comply with the court's confidentiality order, but that will also meet our commitment to the strongest possible Internet privacy protections.”

In March 2007, Viacom filed a copyright-infringement suit against Google and YouTube in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, asking for at least $1 billion in damages. Viacom went to court after the parties were unable to reach a content-licensing pact.

On July 1, Judge Louis Stanton, who is overseeing the case, granted Viacom's request that Google turn over the user names of YouTube viewers, what videos they watched and when, and users' Internet Protocol addresses.

Viacom said that the data is necessary to identify the scope of alleged piracy violations on the video-sharing site but “Viacom will use the data exclusively for the purpose of proving our case against YouTube and Google.”

YouTube also faces a separate class-action lawsuit brought by English Premiere League soccer.

YouTube sells advertising against just 4% of its clips, and the site's ad sales of $200 million this year are below expectations, according to a July 9 report in The Wall Street Journal.

One reason for this, according to the Journal, is YouTube's reluctance to place ads against potentially pirated content, given Viacom's pending billion-dollar copyright-infringement lawsuit against it and Google.

Separately, TiVo announced last week that its subscribers will soon be able to watch any of the millions of YouTube videos on their TVs via a software update to Series3 and TiVo HD DVRs.

For TiVo, providing access to the Internet's No. 1 video destination lets it claim that its subscribers “have more choice on their TV sets than any other TV viewers in the world,” as TiVo CEO Tom Rogers said in a statement.