Google vs Viacom : Does YouTube Infringe on Copyright?

Piracy, The Interwebs 1 Comment »

It has been announced that internet search giant Google has been ordered by a US court to turn over data on users of its social video site YouTube. The ruling comes as part of Google’s legal battle with Viacom, over allegations that the search giant knowing permitted content to be uploaded across the site that infringed on copyright laws.

The data that will be handed across to Viacom will contain the log in ID’s of users, IP addresses and details of any video clips ever watched.

Digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the ruling a “set-back to privacy rights”, whilst others speculated that the ruling was potentially unlawful being that the data contained personally identifiable data.

The Case Details
The billion dollar legal case between Viacom and Google is the biggest case of its kind in history, but is only the latest instance of a company targeting user generated content sites, stating that they are responsible for the content hosted on the site, and subsequent infringement of copyright laws.

Google had consistently denied the allegations that YouTube infringes copyright, saying that it takes down protected videos from the site when asked by content owners, as required by United States law.

Recently EMI also filed a suit against VideoEgg stating similar copyright infringement practices, making the case of Google vs Viacom a landmark ruling, and one that could well have a bearing on how similar disputes are settled in the future.

As part of the legal action Viacom brought against Google, it requested much more than the awarded data on YouTube account holders. For that reason the provision of user data, estimated to total over 12 terabytes, is very much a glass half full/ half empty scenario, with Google scoring a key legal victory keeping all of its trade secrets in tact and Viacom being awarded access to user data.

From a business perspective Google has certainly come out ahead, with Viacom denied access to proprietary code that controls the search facility of both YouTube and Google.com. Viacom had requested access to the code stating it was the only way to truly see if and how Google encourages copyright infringement.

The court denied Viacom’s request for source code stating that the “program’s source code is the product of approximately 50,000 man hours of engineering time and millions of dollars of research and development costs, and maintaining its confidentiality is essential to prevent others from creating competing programs without any equivalent investment”

On the flip side users are the clear losers, with personally identifiable data being handed across to Viacom. This could however have been much worse with access being denied to private video content of YouTube users. This would have entitled Viacom access to videos that can only be viewed by authorised users, video uploaded for personal use, however it was deemed this would be a privacy violation under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The courts did however award Viacom user data whilst forcing them to respect it, threatening to hold them in contempt of court if it uses that data for anything other than specifically proving the prevalence of piracy on YouTube.

As part of the legal action Viacom were also denied their request for Google to turn over databases with information about each video available on YouTube, including titles, keywords, comments and whether videos had been flagged or not. With this data Viacom wanted to demonstrate that defendants have an ability to control infringements, however their request was denied.

Viacom was also denied Google’s advertising and video content schemas with Google arguing their confidentiality. Viacom had intended to demonstrate how revenues were directly related to infringing content.

On reflection, it therefore seems that Google did in fact score a victory over Viacom, keeping propriety code and advertising schemas in tact, in a move that would certainly have dented their competitive edge. Users too can rest in the knowledge that data on private videos, deleted videos and clip data of each video uploaded to YouTube will remain confidential, and the user data that is to be handed over is bound by legal conditions.

After the ruling Google made a statement saying Viacom was “threatening the way millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment and political and artistic expression.”

Hackers Compromise Sony Playstaion Website

Gaming, Technology, The Interwebs No Comments »

News was released today the Sony Playstaion site has fallen victim to hackers who targeted the site in an attempt to engineer credit card number and other personal data from gamers.

The Playstaion site that was hit was in the US, and targeted pages promoting PlayStation games such as SingStar Pop and God of War. The malware attack worked by running a fake antivirus scan on users computers, later prompting them to purchase phoney antivirus software in order to solve the inevitable problem it detected.

Insecurity firm Sophos said that the criminals behind the scam had used an SQL injection vulnerability to add unauthorised code to pages.

Talking of the scope of the attack Graham Cluley, from Sophos stated that “There are millions of video game lovers around the world, many of whom will visit Sony’s PlayStation website regularly to find out more about the latest console games.”

He went on to say that “Most would never expect that surfing a website like this could potentially infect them with Malware…It is essential that all websites, especially high profile ones like this, have been properly hardened to prevent hackers from injecting malicious code into legitimate web pages.”

BBC Launch Second Generation iPlayer

Technology, The Interwebs, TV & Film 2 Comments »

A favourite on The Shelf, the BBC iPlayer is due for a second generation overhaul, as the service gets a facelift a year after it was launched in beta.

As part of the plans the iPlayer will integrate both radio and video services into a single player, with increased functionality and user friendly interface.

“We’ve learned quite a bit over the last 12 months about what our audience likes… and we’ve continued to innovate quite substantially.” – BBC group controller Erik Huggers

As part of the increased functionality of the player users will be able to resume last played clips (dependent on cookies) allowing them to resume half way through a program they didn’t have time to watch in its entirety on their last visit.

Another feature that will be added to the service is a TV schedule, allowing users to plan which programs they wish to view in advance, ensuring the seven day play back restriction of favourite shows doesn’t expire without first having the chance to watch them.

As well as incorporating radio into the service, 250 new television programs a week will be added to enable access to the entire BBC schedule free of charge.

The service was first launched on Christmas day 2007, and has since changed the viewing habits of millions of people who are now able to catch up on a range of shows broadcast across the BBC digital channel catalogue. In the last six months alone the BBC state that there have been over 100m programme requests.

The service has proven to be the reason for the success of a range of shows, including Gavin and Stacy which receives 7% of its viewing figure through the service, and The Mighty Boosh which receives 40%.

Currently only available through Windows on the PC, there are also plans for a version of the download service for Mac and Linux.

The Shelf reported in April in ISPs vs BBC iPlayer of pressure from ISP put on the BBC to pay for extra bandwidth due to the iPlayer’s unprecedented success, but huggers commented on that recently stating:

“All that has literally gone silent. We are partnering and working very closely with the ISP community.”

The BBC is also part of a joint commercial venture with ITV and Channel 4 called Kangaroo which is due to launch later this year, and there are plans to integrate the iPlayer into that service. – Protest of Kangaroo

With plans to make its 80 year archive accessible to the public, as well as provide an overseas service, it could very well mean there will eventually be a commercial arm to the BBC’s on demand offerings.

TLD Restrictions to be Relaxed on Internet

The Interwebs No Comments »

In a quick follow up from a post on the 23/06/08 titled Proposed Plans to Overhaul the Internet , The Shelf confirms that internet regulator Icann voted unanimously to restrict the rules on TLD usage.

The proposed plans are due to be implemented in 2009, and will change the face of the net, dramatically increasing the scope of the internet as we know it.

Proposed Plans to Overhaul the Internet

Technology, The Interwebs 2 Comments »

The internet is set for its biggest shake up in decades if plans to open up the address system are passed by the internets regulators. If plans are passed then the rules on top level domain names such as .com and .co.uk could be relaxed, allowing companies to turn their brands into domain names, whilst at the same time individuals could create their own space on the internet.

A relaxation of the rules could also result in the creation of the .xxx domain to serve adult content, a topic that has been widely discussed for a number of years.

Currently TLDs are restricted to countries such as .uk and institutions such as .net or .org. Because of the current restrictions small countries have often hired their TLD domains out to relevant industries. For example Tuvalu has leased .tv domains to many television firms. The country of Tokelau significantly increased its profile by offering free domain names in return for a served advert, a move which has transformed the communications infrastructure of the island.

Internet regulator ICANN has been has been working towards opening up internet address for years, and if successful new domain name could be internationalised.

ICANN spokesman said of the plans “It’s a massive increase in the geography of the real estate of the internet.”

Hundreds of new domain names could become available by the end of 2008, with thousands more likely to follow.

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