Judge lifts order that led to YouTube ban in Brazil over sexy video of supermodel


SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) – A judge reversed course Tuesday and lifted an order that led to a ban of YouTube in Brazil because a sexy video of supermodel Daniela Cicarelli had circulated widely on the video-sharing site.

The move came after telecommunications companies and Internet providers blocked YouTube from the Amazon to Brazil’s populous south in recent days, saying they were unable to limit blocking to the video of Cicarelli making out with her boyfriend.

The case, the first of its kind in Latin America’s largest nation, spotlights the extremely gray and technologically challenging area of when and how Internet companies and providers should remove content when privacy rights are violated.

With video skyrocketing in popularity online, “there are going to be instances when people’s genuine privacy interests or privacy rights are put at risk,” said Michael Geist, a law professor at Canada’s University of Ottawa. “We are only at the very early days of trying to reconcile that balance.”

The widely viewed video shows Cicarelli and Brazilian banker Renato Malzoni in intimate scenes along a beach near the Spanish city of Cadiz. The order for its removal was issued after they sued and won a ruling that YouTube violated the couple’s right to privacy in hosting the video submitted by the site’s users.

But the clip became even more popular over the weekend after the announcement of the Brazil YouTube ban made headlines worldwide, and users in Brazil and beyond posted it to a slew of other Web sites not subject to the judge’s order.

Some of the Brazilian companies said it was technically impossible for them to filter out only the video on YouTube, so they pulled the plug on the entire site to make sure they were in legal compliance.

YouTube said it is “working on resolving the current issue in Brazil” and has removed all copies of the Cicarelli video.

“We trust that Brazilian authorities have recognized our efforts to remove all copies of the video, and we will continue to do so as we become aware that it has been reposted,” the company said in a statement attributed to spokeswoman Jaime Schopflin.

The ban was also widely criticized by Internet users and press freedom groups, which complained YouTube was being unfairly punished by a near-total block that didn’t work anyway because the clip of Cicarelli making out with her boyfriend just went up on other sites.

“While it is essential that judges ensure that the right to privacy is respected, blocking access to this site, which agreed to withdraw the offending video, is a radical and inappropriate measure and one that it is anyway ineffective,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

Sao Paulo state Supreme Court Justice Enio Santarelli Zuliani denied he engaged in censorship, but acknowledged possible concerns Tuesday when he lifted the ban.

“Preventing the dissemination of offensive, false or libelous information is not legal censorship,” Zuliani wrote. “However, the blocking of a site could lead to speculation along those lines.”

The judge also warned that he could reinstate a YouTube ban in Brazil. He demanded that the service providers explain why they could not block the video alone and that YouTube explain why it could not use software to prevent the Cicarelli clip from popping back on the site.

YouTube said last week the video reappeared on its site after users kept resubmitting it.

The case could spark interest in the development of “fingerprinting” technology that would allow video-sharing sites to identify and block newly uploaded video that is similar or identical to previously removed content, said Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University in Britain.

“That’s a technology that doesn’t exist,” he said. “In YouTube’s defense, this is not as easy as flicking a switch.”

Zuliani’s order to reverse the ban came just hours after Spanish-owned Telefonica SA issued a statement saying it turned off YouTube, preventing millions of Internet users in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro from viewing the site owned by Google Inc.

Telefonica’s announcement affecting Brazil’s biggest cities and most populous states came a day after Brasil Telecom SA confirmed that it had blocked the site in a swath of the country stretching from the capital of Brasilia to the Amazon.

The judge last week ordered YouTube to prevent the video from being seen by Brazilians, also ordering fixed-line operators that provide the gateway to Internet providers to take part in the ban until YouTube assured that the clip could not be accessed by Brazilians on its site.

Cicarelli is one of Brazil’s best-known models, hosts a show on Brazilian MTV and was previously engaged to soccer great Ronaldo, who plays for Spain’s famous Real Madrid team.