Fox Wants Names of Video Pirates

Jan 25, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Twentieth Century Fox filed a subpoena yesterday against YouTube and Livedigital.com asking the online video sites to reveal the identities of the users who illegally posted the first four episodes of this season’s “24” as well as several “Simpsons” episodes. At Fox’s request, the sites pulled the episodes after they appeared in early January; however, the studio is asking for names of the users so it can pursue legal action, according to the court filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The pirates posted the episodes of “24” before the season premiere. Fox is currently streaming the first few episodes of “24” on sister-site MySpace right now, but that’s an above-board deal.

Online video sites have cooperated when studios and content owners request that unauthorized video be removed. The Fox subpoena represents a new step in the online video piracy battle as networks and studios start pursuing individuals.

Fox declined to comment for this story. YouTube and its parent company Google did not respond for requests for comment by press time.

Fox stands a good chance of prevailing, said Richard Neff, the lead technology partner at Los Angeles law firm Greenberg Glusker. “Most Web sites, while trying to protect the identity of their users, have policies which indicate that they’ll comply with subpoenas and court orders.”

In its privacy policy, YouTube states: “We may release personally identifiable information and/or non-personally-identifiable information if required to do so by law, or in the good-faith belief that such action is necessary to comply with state and federal laws (such as U.S. Copyright Law) or respond to a court order, subpoena, or search warrant.”

However, Google traditionally defends users’ privacy and may fight the subpoena to “look heroic to its users,” Mr. Neff said.

(Editor: Fees)