YouTube Hands Over User's Info to Fox

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Three weeks after receiving a subpoena from the U.S. District Court in Northern California, YouTube has reportedly identified a user accused by 20th Century Fox Television of uploading episodes of the show 24 a week prior to their running on television.   That user, named ECOTtotal, is also alleged to have uploaded 12 episodes of The Simpsons, some quite old.  Apparently Google and YouTube were willing and able to identify the owner of the username ECOTtotal, acording to a report on InternetNews.com.

Some observers hoped when the subpoenas came to light that Google’s history of resisting US government subpoenas would lead to non-cooperation in this case.  The moral high ground is clearly far smaller in this case, though.  YouTube has handed over user names before upon request prior to its acquisition.

If the episodes of 24 was already circulating on P2P networks before they hit YouTube, as some reports suggest, then this is little more than a symbolic blood letting.  It’s not nearly as reprehensible as some of Yahoo’s actions in China, where the company has allegedly handed over information on a number of users accused of subversive activities by the Chinese government.  Some of those users have been sent to prison for years.

None the less, I wonder how YouTube users will feel about the company’s disclosure of personal information.  While there was a fair amount of concern raised when the subpoenas were issued, I’m going to guess that most YouTube users will tolerate or even support the company’s decision.  Perhaps the rest will stop linking their personal information to accounts used in illicit activities.  Privacy experts report that it’s the simple things that get most people burned.

Still, with the Viacom purge, harsh words from NBC and now this all occurring in the first half of February, it’s possible that YouTube could be a very different place in the near future.

Marshall Kirkpatrick is the Director of Content at SplashCast and will be assisting with TechCrunch while Michael Arrington travels.

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