Angry YouTube users boycott, Viacom seems to respond

Enraged YouTube users are protesting a controversial court ruling last week by uploading homemade "Viacom sucks" videos, and calling for mass boycotts of Viacom entertainment vehicles such as Paramount Pictures and MTV.

"Boycott Viacom! Fight back for your privacy rights!" proclaimed one video found by BetaNews on the YouTube site early this evening.

"Don't let Viacom wipe [out] the Constitution on Independence Day!" urged another, which hadn't been taken down either by YouTube or the user who created it.

As we reported last week, a lot of YouTube users -- along with privacy advocacy groups purporting to speak on their behalf -- are very unhappy indeed over a ruling issued in US District Court for Southern New York last Wednesday. There, Judge Louis Stanton ordered Google to turn over to Viacom a log containing the user login IDs and IP addresses of sources from which videos were downloaded, together with details about those videos.

Over the long Fourth of July weekend and afterward, YouTube users took the opportunity to consistently refresh YouTube's growing cache of anti-Viacom content, with materials that include new videos exhorting users to band together in a boycott covering Viacom's Web site, Paramount films (including the new Indiana Jones film that premiered in May), MTV cable networks, and other Viacom-owned properties.

"Viacom has not asked for and will not be obtaining any personally identifiable information of any YouTube user," reads a posting that has meanwhile popped up on Viacom's site.

"The personally identifiable information that YouTube collects from its users will be stripped from the data before it is transferred to Viacom," according to the post, which seems to try to transfer user disgruntlement from Viacom over to YouTube. "Viacom will be using the data exclusively for the purpose of proving our case against YouTube and Google."

Yet in a quick search of YouTube on Tuesday evening, BetaNews counted a total of 4,260 videos indexed under the search term "Viacom," with 175 of those under "Viacom sucks."

Although we didn't check precisely how many of those Viacom-oriented videos were newly uploaded, the roughly 200 entries under "Viacom boycott" were apparently posted since the issuance of Judge Stanton's ruling last week.

Some of these videos link to a "Boycott Viacom" Web site at BoycottViacom.blogspot.com. The site claims to have corporate sponsorship from organizations that include McDonalds Corporate Responsibility, FreeCreditReport.com, and the World Wildlife Fund, although this sponsorship information has not been confirmed.

Viacom's case centers upon allegations from Viacom that YouTube and its owner Google are guilty of massive copyright infringement for allegedly allowing unauthorized viewing of move clips and soccer highlights.

For YouTube users who are downloading videos from behind network routers or corporate gateways -- and there are untold numbers of them out there -- the IP address refers to the gateway rather than to a specific PC. Moreover, only those users with registered YouTube accounts have login IDs. If you want to download video from YouTube, it isn't even necessary to sign up for an account. But you do need a YouTube account if you want to do such things as upload or comment on videos, or keep track of favorites you've viewed before.

Could the YouTube users' protests be working already? "Viacom has been in discussions with Google to develop a framework to share [user] data," Viacom now says in a statement on its Web site. "We are committed to a process that will not only comply with the Court's confidentiality order, but that will also meet our strongest possible Internet privacy protections."

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