Friday, 26 January 2007 04:16

Fox goes after YouTube poster

In what may signal a get tough stance from TV studios, 20th Century Fox has slapped a subpoena on popular online video site YouTube, demanding that it disclose the identity of a poster who uploaded new episodes of The Simpsons and 24. As the Hollywood Reporter story asks, will YouTube owner Google fight to protect the identity of its user and how did the user named ECOtotal get hold of the episodes anyway?

YouTube is among the ten most popular websites in the world and gets millions of visits each day. Google, which paid US$1.65 billion for the video sharing site, has a reputation of being fiercely protective of the identity of its users. The search leader has acknowledged that it has a problem with posting of copyrighted material on YouTube and has always complied with requests to remove it.

However, copyright owners are becoming increasingly vocal in their disapproval of YouTube's policy, demanding that it do a better job of policing content that gets posted to the site.

Last year music companies demanded that YouTube clean up its act with anti-piracy software if its wanted to do business with them. YouTube promised to comply and reached agreements with companies such as Warner Bros and Universal Music Group to have anti-piracy software in place by the end of 2006 - a deadline it failed to meet.

Around the same time, The Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) and 22 other Japanese video producers demanded that YouTube to take a proactive rather than a reactive stance against copyright violations.

The current action by Fox, however, ups the ante by putting the onus on YouTube to join the battle against its own illegal posters. If successful, which legal opinion so far appears to believe it will be, the Fox lawsuit could spell the beginning of the end of the anarchic nature of YouTube video posting, which has enabled users all over the world to see entire seasons of TV programs before they go to air.

As many programs get aired in the US before their release in other countries, quite often entire seasons of popular programs such as Lost and Heroes are posted on YouTube, enabling viewers outside the US to see them before they hit their local TV networks.

The question that the lawsuit does not address, however, is how did ECOtotal get hold of the episodes prior to their release in the US. The unknown answer raises the possibility that TV studios may have to do some internal policing of their own to prevent further leaks of their content.

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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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