July 3, 2008 | By Kurt Opsahl

Viacom's Statement on YouTube User Data Controversy

Viacom released the following statement today in response to the YouTube user data controversy (first reported on this blog):

"It is unfortunate that we have been compelled to go to court to protect Viacom's rights and the rights of the artists who work with and depend on us. YouTube and Google have put us in this position by continuing to defend their illegal and irresponsible conduct and profiting from copyright infringement, when they could be implementing the safe and legal user generated content experience they promise.

The Court's recent decision has triggered concern about what information will be disclosed and how it will be used. Viacom has not asked for and will not be obtaining any personally identifiable information of any user. Any information that we or our outside advisors obtain -- which will not include personally identifiable information -- will be used exclusively for the purpose of proving our case against You Tube and Google, will be handled subject to a court protective order and in a highly confidential manner.

In addition, the New York Times reported that:

Google and Viacom said they had had discussions about ways to ensure the data is further protected to assure anonymity.

“We are disappointed the court granted Viacom’s overreaching demand for viewing history,” Catherine Lacavera, Google’s senior litigation counsel, said in a statement. “We are asking Viacom to respect users’ privacy and allow us to anonymize the logs before producing them under the court’s order.”

Michael Fricklas, Viacom’s general counsel said: “We are investigating techniques, including anonymization, to enhance the security of information that will be produced.”

Mr. Fricklas added that Viacom would not have direct access to the information Google produces, and that its use would be strictly limited. Viacom would not, for example, be able to chase down users who illegally posted clips from “The Colbert Report” on YouTube.

“The information that is produced by Google is going to be limited to outside advisers who can use it solely for the purpose of enforcing our rights against YouTube and Google,” Mr. Fricklas said. “I can unequivocally state that we will not use any of this information to enforce rights against end users.”

It is encouraging to see that both Viacom and Google are responding to the important privacy interest raised by the court's order. We plan to continue discussions with the parties on ways to protect the privacy of the YouTube users and ensure that their rights under the Video Privacy Protection Act are given effect.


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