Google expressed disappointment and privacy groups voiced outrage Thursday after a judge ordered Google to give entertainment giant Viacom details of video-watching habits of visitors to its popular video-sharing website YouTube.
On Tuesday US District Court Judge Louis Stanton backed Viacom's request for data on which YouTube users watch which videos on the website.
Viacom is seeking the data as potential evidence for a billion-dollar copyright suit against Google, which Viacom charges acts as a willing accomplice to Internet users that put clips of Viacom's copyrighted television programs on YouTube.
“We are disappointed the court granted Viacom's overreaching demand for viewing history,” said Google senior litigation counsel on Thursday.
But in what Google claims as a partial victory, Stanton denied Viacom's request to get its hands on secret source code used in YouTube video searches as well as for Internet searches.
Stanton also refused a Viacom request to order Google to provide access to the videos YouTube users store in private YouTube files.
Google lawyers opposed each of the Viacom requests, which were made during a “discovery” evidence-gathering phase of a lawsuit filed in March of last year in US District Court in New York state.
“We are pleased the court put some limits on discovery, including refusing to allow Viacom to access users' private videos and our search technology,” Lacavera said.
“We will ask Viacom to respect users' privacy and allow us to anonymize the logs before producing them under the court's order.”
Google condemns the lawsuit as an attack on the underpinnings of the Internet, while Viacom argues that the California-based Internet search colossus and especially its subsidiary YouTube are involved in “massive” copyright infringement.
The Viacom lawsuit has been merged with similar civil litigation being pursued by the Premier League of England's Football Association, which says soccer game clips are routinely posted on YouTube without authorisation.
Google shields itself with 1998's Digital Millennium Copyright Act, US legislation that says Internet firms are not responsible for what Internet users put on websites.
Stanton brushed aside privacy concerns on Tuesday while ordering Google to give Viacom log-in names of YouTube users and Internet protocol (IP) addresses identifying which computers they used for viewing videos.