In the ongoing copyright litigation between Google and Viacom, a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has ordered Google (PDF) to hand over data on every YouTube user, including username, the associated IP address, and a list of all the the videos that user ever watched.
In this lawsuit, Viacom is seeking more than $1 billion in damages because of alleged copyright violations on YouTube.
This is truly shocking. England’s Statute of Anne (1710) is widely regarded as the first copyright law. The statute’s full title was “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.” This statute first accorded exclusive rights to authors (i.e., creators) rather than publishers, and it included protections for consumers of printed work ensuring that publishers could not control their use after sale. It also limited the duration of such exclusive rights to 28 years.
You see, the point is that copyright laws have been bastardized and twisted so much, that instead of protecting the creators of works, they exist (almost solely) to protect the investment of publishers. In fact in many developed nations in the world (most notably the UK and US) lobby groups are pressuring the governments to increase the current cap on copyright from 50 – to 100+ years!
I think that while it’s important for companies to protect their Intellectual Property, copyright is becoming more and more difficult to define; and more importantly, in an age where the barrier to produce new and creative works is so low – the original needs of “copyright” to protect creators is almost needless.
Like many things, I turn to the internet. It gives me great comfort to know that people can protect and define copyright themselves with a simple little license.txt file outlining the wishes of the author., and I think we have the Open Source community to thank for this. Creative Commons, under which nearly every blog operates, is an example of this.
But, as far as Viacom lawsuit is concerned – when any company violates the privacy and rights of users, it really pisses me off. What will be next? Google for indexing CNN.com? No I don’t think so, and I think we all know why!