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YouTube Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Copyright Piracy


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A class action lawsuit has been filed against YouTube, Google and Alphabet by a composer who claims YouTube allows copyrighted works to appear on the platform, infringing on composers’ rights as copyright holders.

Plaintiffs Maria Schneider and Pirate Monitor LTD say YouTube has facilitated and induced a “hotbed” of copyright infringement through its development and implementation of a copyright enforcement system that protects only the most powerful copyright owners, such as major studios and record labels.

Schneider is a multiple Grammy Award-winning composer and holds copyrights to numerous works, including “Hang Gliding,” “Green Piece” and “Journey Home.” She says these songs have been posted in full or in part on YouTube and have been viewed by YouTube users. 

 

The plaintiff claims she has sent multiple takedown requests to YouTube to remove infringing videos from 2013 to the present, including videos that contain her copyrighted songs. She says that after she submitted the takedown requests, each of her songs has been subsequently posted in full or in part on YouTube without her authorization.

“By being forced to continuously self-police uploads across YouTube’s billions of uploads, as opposed to automatic and preemptive blocking, Plaintiff Schneider is forced to weigh the further financial damage caused to her by alienating performance groups, including those who purchased her music scores,” the YouTube class action lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs maintain that copyright holders should not be forced to repeatedly demand that the same platform take down infringing uses of the same copyrighted works, while other rights holders are provided access to standard digital fingerprinting and blocking tools. 

Lawsuit: YouTube Provides No Meaningful Copyright Protections

Schneider claims to have been left behind by YouTube’s copyright enforcement system and instead is provided no meaningful ability to police the extensive infringement of her copyrighted works. 

The copyright management tool that is provided to the “behemoths” of the creative industry is called Content ID, a digital fingerprinting tool that compares videos being uploaded on YouTube to a catalog of copyrighted material submitted by those entities that are permitted to use Content ID. 

 

The YouTube class action lawsuit alleges that not only is Content ID not available to Schneider, but it actually insulates the vast majority of known and repeated copyright infringers from YouTube’s repeat infringer policy, thereby encouraging its users’ continuing upload of infringing content.

“Defendants Alphabet, Google, and YouTube reap billions of dollars annually from the online hosting of videos, including millions of works that infringe on the exclusive copyrights of Plaintiffs and the Class,” the YouTube class action lawsuit goes on to state.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants permit and facilitate the infringement because it furthers their growth and revenue strategies and because they have determined that the plaintiffs and Class Members lack the resources necessary to combat copyright infringement on the scale at which it is perpetuated on YouTube.

Schneider says a vast majority of pirated content draws users to the site and the growth in users incentivizes the posting of more content on YouTube, which in turn enables the defendants to reap more advertising revenue.

Smaller rights holders, which include the plaintiffs and proposed Class Members are denied access to Content ID and thus are relegated to inferior and time consuming manual means of trying to police and manage their copyrights such as scanning the entirety of YouTube postings and searching for keywords, titles and other potential identifiers.

 

“Defendants have, in effect, created a two-tiered system whereby the rights of large creators with the resources to take Defendants to court on their own are protected, while smaller and independent creators like Plaintiffs and the Class are deliberately left out in the cold,” the YouTube class action lawsuit maintains.

The plaintiffs claim that the superior protections of the Content ID system are completely denied to the plaintiffs and Class Members no matter how many times their copyrighted works are infringed on the YouTube platform. They say YouTube exerts significant control over which infringing videos may be published on its site and which infringing videos are never viewed by the public.

“Plaintiffs have had their exclusive copyrights infringed multiple times, despite having sent prior successful takedown notices for those very same works and despite Defendants’ having actual and constructive knowledge that YouTube is being used continuously to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights,” the YouTube class action lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs maintain that the ready availability on YouTube of unauthorized copyrighted materials and the “whack-a-mole” approach required for creators to remove infringing material works disincentive the creation of new works and reduce the value of all works.

Pirate Monitor Exits Suit

Pirate Monitor has voluntarily dismissed itself from the litigation, according to court documents submitted on March 8, 2021. The move comes after YouTube’s effort to dismiss the class action lawsuit in a motion filed with the California federal court in September.

“Voluntary dismissal without a Court order is proper because all parties have stipulated to this dismissal and signed below,” states the short stipulation of dismissal submitted by Pirate Monitor to the California federal court. “No compensation was paid to Pirate Monitor LTD by Defendants in connection with this voluntary dismissal.”

Lead plaintiff Schneider remains in the lawsuit claiming that, without access to YouTube’s Content ID system, she must troll the site for copyright violations of her work. Schneider must also face YouTube’s counterclaim that she has sufficient access to Content ID through her publishing agent.

Do you own copyrighted material that has been placed on YouTube? Leave a message in the comments section below.

The plaintiffs are represented by George A. Zelcs, Randall P. Ewing Jr., Ryan Z. Cortazar, Stephen M. Tillery, Steven M. Berezney, Michael E. Klenov and Carol O’Keefe of Korein Tillery LLC and Joshua Irwin Schiller and Philip C. Korologos of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP.

The YouTube Class Action Lawsuit is Maria Schneider, et al. v. YouTube LLC, et al., Case No. 5:20-cv-04423, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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