Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fox vs youtube?

It had to happen! Fox sent a subpoena to YouTube requesting that the site provide identification info on the user who uploaded the first episodes of 24's sixth season, as well as 12 episodes of ‘The Simpsons.’

The subpoena reads: "On or about January 8, 2007, Fox became aware that a subscriber ("The Subscriber") of YouTube Inc.'s internet-based service uploaded pirated copies of the works onto YouTube, making it available for illegal viewing over the internet to anyone who wishes to watch it.

"Fox has not authorized this distribution or display of the works. The subpoena request YouTube, Inc. to disclose information sufficient to identify the Subscriber so that Fox can stop this infringing activity."

The videos that angered fox were submitted by a user who chose the user name ECOTotal. Don’t bother searching for his name on YouTube because his name and video content have been deleted by now.

LiveDigital, another video sharing site, is in the same situation as YouTube, having received the same request from Fox.

In both subpoenas, Fox alleges the trademark-infringing 24 videos were "pirated copies" of this season's first four episodes, aired Jan. 14-15 on Fox, released on DVD Jan. 16—and spotted on YouTube and LiveDigital Jan. 8.

Copyright problems related to content posted by users has not been news for YouTube for long now, and the moment Google acquired YouTube, there were several analysts who foresaw lawsuits connected with this topic.

So far, problems of this ilk have been ironed out once the video content breaching copyright policies was erased from the site, but this time around Fox is going one step further, by asking for the user’s IPs.

YouTube can take time to think things through until February 9 – company officials have refused to comment on aspects concerning this matter before that date.

Each time there was a similar situation, YouTube was adamant, emphasizing that it was not responsible for its users’ copyright breach.

Last October, Comedy Central briefly ordered the removal of all Daily Show and Colbert Report clips. In the same month YouTube deleted nearly 30,000 files after a Japanese media group said the clips were pirated and violated copyright laws. The request from the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers highlighted the mounting criticism of the proliferation of allegedly pirated material on YouTube.

A month before that, ABC blew its stack over a posted scene from a then-unaired Desperate Housewives episode.

In November, the German Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights demanded the site "delete all videos with non-licensed German music."

The dilemma is what YouTube will decide to do and whether it will reveal the users’ identity or not, meaning his IP and e-mail address. It’s hard to assume the company knows more than this.

In May, before its $1.65 billion acquisition by Google, YouTube site complied with a Paramount Pictures request to identify a user who shot his own unauthorized short film adapted from the screenplay of the Oliver Stone film "World Trade Center."

YouTube belongs to Google now, a company that didn’t hesitate to fight with DOJ when asked to provide certain information about its users.

Ever since the takeover, Google has been trying to avoid copyright related problems, last year’s agreement with Universal Music Group standing as proof of this.

UMG had threatened to sue YouTube and MySpace, a site belonging to the same owner, News Corporation, as 20th Century Fox.
A decision from YouTube to reveal the user’s identity could become an interesting precedent from a legal point.

A dilemma remains: is YouTube responsible for its video content or does this responsibility belong solely and entirely to the users? This is one question that will torment lawyers.

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