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7/7/2008
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YouTube Users Vent Anger In Anti-Viacom Videos

The video-sharing site's users are calling for a boycott of the media giant following reports that it will view log data to prove its copyright case against Google.

Viacom has reassured the YouTube community that it only wants YouTube viewer log data to prove its copyright case against Google, but the YouTube community hasn't gotten the message.

Rather, the video-sharing site's users have launched an expletive-laden counterattack, calling for a boycott of the media giant.

In the past week, the number of videos associated with the search keyword "Viacom" has increased by 871, more than 28.5%. Already on Monday, 341 new videos associated with the "Viacom" search keyword have been uploaded. (In a subsequent search, the number dropped to 320, suggesting that some anti-Viacom videos are being removed.) Mostly, the videos are critical of Viacom.

Among titles that can be reprinted on the InformationWeek Web site, user sentiment is evident: "Viacom is a Copyright Bully," "VIACOM VS YOU = BOYCOTT," and "Screw You, Viacom."

A Viacom spokesperson declined to comment. However, Viacom's publication of a statement on its corporate Web site promising to keep YouTube's data confidential shows that the company is aware of the sensitive nature of this issue.

"Viacom has been in discussions with Google to develop a framework to share this data," Viacom's statement says. "We are committed to a process that will not only comply with the court's confidentiality order, but that will also meet our commitment to the strongest possible Internet privacy protections."

Viacom may be tempted to dismiss these videos as adolescent venting, but a great many eyes and ears appear to be receptive to such complaints. At the time this article was filed, "Viacom is a Copyright Bully" had attracted 17,226 views, "VIACOM VS YOU = BOYCOTT" had been seen 103,400 times, and a video with an expletive in the title had racked up 299,136 views.

Among the comments left in response to these videos are calls to sign a petition urging the judge hearing Viacom's case against YouTube to reconsider his decision to make IP addresses and user names available to Viacom. (Unfortunately for aggrieved YouTube users, online petitions don't have any real standing in the legal appeals process.)

What remains to be seen is whether fleeting online anger gels into persistent antipathy against Viacom. A great many boycotts are launched, but few arouse enough passion to last and change corporate behavior or policy. Certainly, Viacom is unlikely to abandon its copyright claim against YouTube because of the complaints of YouTube users.

The probable outcome is that Google will provide Viacom with anonymized data, as Google has suggested, and that will be the end of it, at least until there's a ruling in Viacom's copyright lawsuit.

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