Every week, YouTube’s users upload millions of hours of videos. As with any user-generated content site, this also includes copyright-infringing content.
YouTube tackles this problem by processing takedown notices and using its Content-ID system to automatically remove allegedly infringing content.
However, according to copyright holders, this is not good enough. That includes Bollywood filmmaker Suneel Darshan, who filed a lawsuit against YouTube and Google India in 2011. Now, eight years later, a local court has ruled in his favor.
A few days ago, the District Court of Gurgaon held that the video platform did indeed infringe on the rights of the filmmaker. The Court issued an injunction preventing YouTube from violating his copyrights going forward and awarded roughly $700 in compensation.
The ‘damages’ amount is relatively low, especially after a prolonged legal battle, but Darshan says that he is planning to file a separate case to claim his full losses. A copy of the verdict has not been published online, as far as we know.
According to local media reports, YouTube and Google’s lawyers argued that the video platform was merely an intermediary, which should not be held directly liable.
In addition, the companies pointed out that they have a functional DMCA takedown policy that allows any copyright holder to request the removal in infringing content by pointing out specific URLs. This is something the filmmaker failed to do.
Darshan and his legal team held that YouTube and Google profited from the “unauthorized exploitation” of copyrighted works by sharing ad-revenue with the user who uploaded the content. As a result, the filmmaker lost part of his income.
The Court eventually sided with the copyright holder ruling that if Google and YouTube were aware of the content, they could have located the URLs to remove the infringing videos.
While the ruling is a setback for the video platform, the case is likely to be appealed. For now, however, the filmmaker is happy with the victory which he describes as an “encouraging judgment.”
That said, the journey towards this victory has been prolonged and difficult. YouTube and Google pushed back hard, Darshan says, quoted by the Free Press Journal.
“We faced many challenges while fighting this case. They made so many claims that it is not their jurisdiction and then they told me that I don’t hold the right to this content. So I had to prove my ownership, it is like parents proving that it is their child,” Darshan says.
YouTube hasn’t commented publicly on the case yet. The company is currently involved in several copyright infringement cases, including two that are with the European Court of Justice, which are expected to have a broad impact.
Similar to the Indian case, the top EU court will have to decide whether YouTube can be expected to go beyond responding to takedown notices that detail specific URLs.