Google, Viacom Clashing Over YouTube Records

NEW YORK - Despite an order from a judge to turn over all records related to YouTube videos to Viacom, Google officials are balking at turning over employee records.

As part of its $1 billion class-action lawsuit against the search engine for allowing copyrighted clips on YouTube, Viacom requested all records related to who watched the videos and cleared them for posting, as well as IP addresses and usernames for all videos. CNET reported that Google is defying the judge's order and arguing that user privacy is more important than the directive.

"Viacom and other plaintiffs never should have demanded private viewing data in the first place," a Google spokesman said in an e-mail to CNET. "They should have agreed a week ago to let us anonymize it. We are willing to discuss the disclosure of viewing activity of all the relevant parties. But the simple issue of protecting user information should be resolved now. Our users' privacy should not be held hostage to advance the plaintiffs' additional litigation interests."

YouTube's employee information could prove key 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.