Some real crazyness is being done in the name of copyright protection.

I’ve written in the past that a new treaty might allow customs officials to check your laptop for music and film when you enter the country, and I’ve written about a “download protection” program aimed at college students downloading songs that was being promoted to colleges to stop this (while opening the college networks to hackers).

So what’s the latest outrage?

It seems that some people are posting videos of SpongeBob Square Pants and The Daily Show on You Tube, and Viacom is mad. Never mind that for some of us this is the only way we can watch the shows (or rather clips from the shows). They want to know who did it: And not just the ones who post the videos, but those of us who are dastardly enough to watch it.

So to prove this, Viacom wants to know Google’s database. Yup. All 12 terabytes of data (which if printed out would be 12 million books, according to Google’s lawyers).

I confess! I confess! I watch Jon Stewart and once in awhile I even watch Stephen Colbert (but not Sponge Bob, well, not any more).
Ayyye they found me out!

What is worse is that the court okayed Viacom to get Google’s data base of viewers, (not video posters) never mind that it is against the law, specifically the federal Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) that is supposed to protect the public from busybodies knowing what videos you watch or rent. This is the electronic equivalent of the courts letting a book publisher snoop into the library database to see who borrowed library books or borrow technical journals, using the excuse that they needed to stop students from xeroxing pages of library books (and yes, I’m old enough to remember when there were law suits attempting to stop us from xeroxing medical journals).

Of course, Viacom claims your privacy is safe in their hands. They’d never snoop, or try to find out who you are…cross their heart and spit.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes:

The Logging database contains:

for each instance a video is watched, the unique “login ID” of the user who watched it, the time when the user started to watch the video, the internet protocol address other devices connected to the internet use to identify the user’s computer (“IP address”), and the identifier for the video.

Google correctly argued that “the data should not be disclosed because of the users’ privacy concerns,” citing the VPPA, 18 U.S.C. § 2710. However, the Court dismissed this argument with no analysis, stating “defendants cite no authority barring them from disclosing such information in civil discovery proceedings, and their privacy concerns are speculative.”

The EFF also notes that the court ignored the VPPA saying that the VPPA was about video tapes, not about electronic versions of the same.

So what does this come down to?

It means that while the ACLU is doing it’s job protecting terrorists from government snooping in your emails without a search warrant, but hardly anyone seems to worry if Viacom knows your kid might be watching Sponge Bob.

Silly me, but why the heck do they need to know who is viewing the videos? Are they going to send us all bills?

As for not finding out who you are, the EFF points out that:

Whatever might be said about ‘an IP address without additional information,’ the the AOL search history leak fiasco shows that the material viewed by a user alone can be sufficient to identify the user, even with neither a login nor an IP address.

One doesn’t even have to be a computer genius to do that.

One of the side issues of the “Obama Muslim” article in the Washington Post was that a professor, in searching down a rumor used a political website and an email address to managed to track down and “expose” several people whose only “crime” was to ask a question that is not politically correct on a website that is even less politically correct.

How does that saying go?

First they came for the terrorists, then they came for the child pornographers, and then they came for the racists and now they are coming for those who watch Sponge Bob Square pants…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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