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Volkswagen Subpoena Seeks YouTube User Identity

 3:01 pm on Sep 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Volkswagen has filed a subpoena seeking the identity of a YouTube user who posted a Nazi-themed parody of a recent VW Golf commercial. Volkswagen's move underscores the privacy risks to a blossoming community of users on sites like YouTube and Yahoo Video, and social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Copyright holders and their agents have long been monitoring activity on file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent and Gnutella. Now they're turning their attention to the social networks.

Volkswagen Subpoena Seeks YouTube User Identity [wired.com]



 3:15 pm on Sep 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Kudos to VW for protecting their Brand. Someone took a VW commercial and doctored it, that is blatant copyright infringement. And on top of that, it was a parody (comic effect or ridicule).

Volkswagen alleges the video violates its copyrights, according to San Francisco federal court documents. The doctored video has been removed from YouTube and is no longer available.

"The social networking sites have definitely become a new focal point," said Evan Cox, a San Francisco copyright attorney who, with his colleagues, issue thousands of takedown notices a year. "As a consequence, they've gotten more focus from copyright owners."

That last part should probably read...

"As a consequence, they've gotten more money from copyright owners."

The Internet is ripe for the picking by Legal Beagles.

Some interesting statistics there at the end from comScore...

Americans watched more than 9 billion videos online in July, up about 8 percent from the month earlier, according to comScore Media Metrix. The bulk of the videos were viewed on social networking sites. Google's YouTube ranked at the top with about 2.4 billion videos views. Yahoo, in second, had 390 million videos viewed and Fox Interactive Media, which owns MySpace, came in third, with 298 million views for July.

9 Billion Videos in 2007 July! Whew, those lawyers have their hands full. :)


 6:06 pm on Sep 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

And on top of that, it was a parody (comic effect or ridicule)

Doctoring the commercial was clear copyright infringement and a valid reason for complaint, but parody is another matter. Volkswagen's historical origins will always attract a certain type of humour.

A complicating factor is the law in Germany, where displaying the swastika can carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison. I would generally hope that Google resists divulging the poster's identity, but I haven't seen the video and much would depend on context.

"Don't mention the war - I did once but I think I got away with it..."

Matt Probert

 6:07 pm on Sep 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Oh the irony!

During the war it was Volkswagen who suggested the idea of slave labour, and requested slave labour from the concentration camps to work in their commercial factories.

Not that they were alone in committing crimes against humanity. Many of the large engineering companies happily produced weapons of war for use by their "evil" dictators in Germany and Japan.



 6:53 pm on Sep 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

A parody is protected by free speech. A parody is a method of criticism though humor, it bypasses copyright infringement with a fair-use defense.

Politicians and anyone in the limelight would be able to sue comedians left and right if it wasn't for fair-use. Wierd Al Yankovic wouldn't have cut a single song.

VW should have bought the rights to the video and put it on their site for linkbait!


 6:54 pm on Sep 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

So, what will Volkswagen lawyers say in the court? Hey, we used just a few thousand slaves taken from Nazi concentration camps in our factories. So this "Nazi-themed parody" is unfair to us German companies.

or will they try to stand on the legs borrowed from copyright act?


 7:00 pm on Sep 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

VW is trying to find out if the user is located in Germany, so they could have their legal dept charge him under their Nazi Displays act (not sure of real law name) - almost everywhere else in the industrialized world, this is protected parody.

It's not a reasonable request and I hope YouTube does not honor it.

Any German industry that existed during the Nazi era is fair game for parody until the end of time.


 7:11 pm on Sep 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

A parody is protected by free speech. A parody is a method of criticism though humor, it bypasses copyright infringement with a fair-use defense.

Yes and No. Politicians and public figures are subject to parodies just by the nature of their job/position. However, copying content such as the video itself, whether intended as a parody, can be copyright infringement. A "commercial" is still private property, a creation. If the posters of the video did their own "commercial" then they would have more leverage.

There is also the "public image" to consider. Yes, VW has a history and there was an urban legend that if you looked at the VW emblem on the hub cap while it rotated, it made a swastika, but I am sure that is not an image VW wants to project in this day and age. IMHO, they have every right to protect their reputation and identity.



 6:56 am on Sep 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I love how we speak of entities such as companies and countries as if they were living breathing people in and of themselves. VW may have employed Jewish slave labor during WWII, but every high ranking executive behind that decision is dead now, and the current executives are appalled that their predecessors engaged in such crimes against humanity.

Although Youtube has weathered a few copyright tropical storms already, I think there's a category 4 copyright legal hurricane brewing off the coast of YouTube called Remember Napster. At some point or another it's going to make landfall, and when it does there will be tree breaking, power downing, roof removing class action lawsuits defacing the YouTube as we know it, or alternatively it could be reduced to a mere tropical depression as out of court settlements with copyright owners keep YouTube(google)out of courtrooms. One thing is for sure there is a 99% chance of high copyright infringement winds coupled with heavy cash draining rains on the horizon.


 4:43 am on Sep 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hmm, YouTube owns a site. The site shows a copyright infringing video... but YouTube isn't the target of Volkswagons wrath?

Is adding a third party video on a third party site now a crime? If so, the crime can't be copyright related (you didn't make the video) and can't be defamation (You don't own YouTube which displayed it)...

I think that for the good of everyone YouTube needs to be held responsible for distributing copyright material because I KNOW they did and KNOW its against the law in any medium.

Won't happen, I know, but YouTubes means of profit is to show stuff they don't own wether its legal or not, their site needs work apparently.

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