Google, Viacom Arrive at a Deal to Make YouTube Data Anonymous

NEW YORK - After defying a judge's order to turn over all records relating to videos on YouTube, Google officials have come to an agreement with Viacom on releasing the information without giving up any private information.

Viacom filed a $1 billion copyright infringement suit against Google last year after Viacom-owned shows began emerging frequently on YouTube without proper approval.

A judge ruled earlier this month ordering Google to turn over all records related to YouTube videos to Viacom. Following the ruling, the two parties have been trying to arrive at a compromise that would protect user's privacy. The agreement has Google turning over the records to Viacom, but replacing sensitive information with unique codes.

YouTube's employee information could prove vital to Viacom's case, as it could show employees knew some posted clips were indeed copyrighted material. If that's the case, then YouTube could lose its protection under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act's Safe Harbor provision, whereby the site maintains it is actually an Internet service provider and thereby not responsible for what users post.

YouTube officials maintain they have no control over what gets posted, but do comply with take-down requests when copyright holders alert them to infringing videos.

While Google argued that personal data including IP addresses could be connected to individual users, prompting a privacy issue, Viacom and other plaintiffs argued that they needed a way to differentiate among individual users in order to establish that they are drawn to YouTube primarily to watch copyrighted material.

Under terms of the deal, the YouTube user data such as user IDs and IP addresses will be replaced by a substitute "unique value," according to a court filing.