Viacom’s line in the YouTube lawsuit privacy imbroglio: We don’t really want to know who’s watching what on Google’s video service. Not entirely true: Turns out Viacom does want to know what founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and other YouTube employees have been uploading and watching.
So says CNET, which reports that Viacom’s request for specific YouTubers’ viewing data, is at the heart of the current impasse between Viacom and Google. Google (GOOG) is under court order to turn over some 12 terabytes of viewing data, dating back to the site’s launch in 2005. And Viacom (VIA) has said it is willing to accept YouTube’s user log with personal information like IP addresses and user names redacted.
But apparently Viacom doesn’t believe that anonymity should extend to YouTube employees. It signals a two-pronged strategy in VIA’s $1 billion copyright infringement suit: Viacom wants general viewing data to establish how much YouTube traffic is attributed to Viacom video (Jon Stewart, Spongebob clips, etc), and it wants to catch Chad, Steve, and other YouTube employees red-handed.
YouTube has long argued that it doesn’t filter or monitor content, so it can’t be held responsible for what’s up on the site. But what if key YouTube employees were responsible for the upload of copyrighted video in the first place? It would certainly weaken a key YouTube defence–that its role is analogous to that of an ISP, and that not responsible for illegal acts by its users. It would also lend credence to the theory YouTube employees uploaded copyrighted material in the early days to help popularise the service.