Fox subpoenas Youtube to get identity of video pirate

Los Angeles (CA) - Youtube was served today with a subpoena from Twentieth Century Fox Films, after the media company spotted a user posting videos of upcoming episodes of 24 and The Simpsons.

The episodes of 24 that are in question were posted on Youtube at least a week before they were scheduled to air on TV. Fox claims this sort of copyright infringement could cause "irreparable harm" to the company and it is seeking the true identity of the user "ECOtotal".

It is unknown how the episodes were leaked to the Internet before they aired on TV, or even if Ecototal is in fact the originator of the video. He allegedly was the first person to post the episodes on Youtube, so even if he received the files from another video-sharing site, the Fox probe could eventually lead to the person responsible for uploading the show before it hit the public airwaves.

Youtube has gotten the most heat recently with regard to harboring copyright infringement of multimedia content, and has been called the Napster of videos. Several content providers have threatened legal action against the site, but it is a much less common phenomenon for them to go after the individual users, which raises a question of how far a site’s privacy policy extends to the actions of its users.

Youtube began measures to more actively detect and fight copyrighted content. However, the number of videos posted directly from a TV or DVD is still in the rafters. For example, a Youtube search for Boston Legal returns nearly 400 results, and none of them seem to be directly submitted from ABC.

Fox has also subpoenaed LiveDigital, a Youtube clone, after the videos also appeared there. Google, Youtube’s parent company, has a history of failing to comply with disclosing the identities of its users, even with a valid subpoena.

In this case, a judge in the US District Court of Northern California ordered that Google has a duty to disclose the information. It has not yet been confirmed that the online company has complied with the subpoena.

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