In a compromise that should calm the fears of those who seek online anonymity, YouTube will be allowed to mask the identities of individual users when it provides viewership records to Viacom in its ongoing $1 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit.
YouTube officials say they will substitute user IDs, Internet addresses and other identifiers before submitting the database as is required under a court order earlier this month. Viacom agreed to this yesterday - perhaps to satisfy privacy advocates who might otherwise have created a PR nightmare for the media group - saying it has no use for data on individuals but just needs to know how popular its content is at the video-sharing website.
Still in dispute, however, is whether YouTube would be able to mask records for its employees. Viacom has so far retained rights to those names so that it might prove that Google directly engaged in copyright infringement or was aware that its YouTube site was facilitating copyright infringement but did nothing to stop it.