Youtube is in trouble: Volkswagen wants the web page to increase copyright surveillance. Reason? 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.

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 VW subpoena is the first legal step toward what could grow into a copyright infringement lawsuit. Volkswagen did not reply to several messages seeking comment.

"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 take down notices a year. "As a consequence, they’ve gotten more focus from copyright owners."

YouTube said it generally notifies users when it receives civil subpoenas seeking their identities, as does its parent company, Google. Yahoo, its Silicon Valley rival, does the same. Facebook, however, declined to answer an inquiry from Wired News.

If users are notified, it gives them a chance to protest the subpoenas in court and, if successful, keep their identities secret and avoid being sued or targeted by somebody claiming defamation, copyright, privacy or other breaches. When individuals challenge subpoenas, the lawyers seeking their identity sometimes drop the case. And the courts routinely quash challenged subpoenas if they conclude there were no legal violations to begin with, privacy experts said.

"The notice gives you the opportunity to speak privately, by filing a motion to quash," said Fred von Lohmann, a privacy attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The courts, before somebody’s identity is released, are requiring a legitimate claim against you."

Source: Wired

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