Volkswagen filed a subpoena seeking the identity of a YouTube user who posted a Nazi-themed parody of a recent VW commercial. VW alleges that the video violates its copyrights. The video was taken down and is no longer available.
How it has generally worked so far with online video sites like YouTube, is that the company bringing a copyright suit will sue YouTube itself , rather than seeking out the user who posted the infringing video. This seems to be changing and companies are following the path of the music industry, which has used subpoenas for years to learn the identities of alleged copyright infringers.
The issue that the article is concerned with is notice (to the user). YouTube said it generally notifies users when it receives civil subpoenas seeking their identities. This notice gives the user the opportunity to challenge the subpoena and attempt to keep his identity secret. If subpoenas go unchallenged, they are complied with, and identities are disclosed. There are no laws that mandate the giving of notice, and such a law was defeated in California in 2004. Even if passed, the law would not have reached federal copyrights.
The story here has implications of numerous topics discussed in class. For one, it is borne out of Nazi controversy. But seriously, it provokes questions of anonymity/invincibility or perceived anonymity/invincibility on the internet, as well as issues of notice. The notice issues are not simply what is discussed above: notice of a civil subpoena for ones identity, but maybe more importantly, notice that one is actually breaking the law.
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