Viacom v. Google has rocked the business world and could have far reaching implications. The dispute between the industry giants stems from Google’s YouTube website allowing viewers to post copyrighted material without permission from rightful owners. The Court decided in favor of Viacom, thus requiring Google to remove any material of Viacom’s ownership—video, songs, articles, etc.—from YouTube. The controversial aspect of the ruling was the requirement that Google also provide identifying information of all viewers of YouTube, such as login I.D., time of viewing, internet protocol address, and the identification of videos. The identity of visitors to YouTube, past or future, will be forwarded to Viacom.
Google had argued under the Video Privacy Protection Act that they had a legal right to protect the privacy of all its viewers. A vital component of the act states “…prerecorded video cassette tapes or similar audio-visual materials.” The material central to the case clearly falls under the definition of ‘similar audio-visual material’. However, the Court disagreed by stating, “…defendants cite no authority barring them from disclosing such information in civil discovery proceedings, and their privacy concerns are speculative.”
Despite the Court’s decision, many media companies are developing plans in coordination with Google to maximize advertising instead of suing. Content producers will be allowed to post material to YouTube and designate which advertisements will be attached. This could be a very powerful advertising tool given the large volume of visitors to YouTube. For all executives around the country, a new marketing avenue has been revealed.