Last year, Spanish-born movie tycoon Carlos Vasallo sued YouTube over various piracy-related claims.
The actor and producer owns the rights to the world’s largest collection of Mexican and Latin American movies, many of which are illegally shared on YouTube.
While copyright allegations against Google and YouTube aren’t new, the case came with an interesting twist. According to Vasallo, YouTube would only allow him to join the Content ID copyright protection program if he agreed to a revenue share deal. In addition, he had had to waive all possible piracy claims that took place in the past.
The movie tycoon refused to accept these terms. Instead, he opted to send old-fashioned DMCA takedown notices. However, according to the complaint filed at a Florida federal court last year, that did little to stop people from pirating his films.
Copyright and Antitrust Claims
The lawsuit accused YouTube of breaching antitrust law through ‘illegal tying.’ According to Vasallo, YouTube tied Content ID participation to a required revenue-sharing deal and the condition to waive older copyright claims.
The movie tycoon also accused YouTube of several copyright infringement claims by making movies available on the platform without permission. On top of that, YouTube allegedly violated the DMCA, by removing copyright management information from the videos.
YouTube disagreed and previously refuted the allegations. The streaming giant asked the court to dismiss the case, noting that the statute of limitations on many of the claims had expired.
After reviewing the arguments from both sides, U.S. District Court Judge Darrin Gayles ruled on the motion to dismiss last week. While the Judge was not ready to drop the entire case, he dismissed some of the claims.
No Illegal Tying
Starting with the antitrust allegations, Judge Gayles notes that there is no evidence that YouTube coerced the movie tycoon to join the Content ID program. This is one of the required elements for an ‘illegal tying’ claim.
“YouTube argues that Plaintiff fails to meet the second element because Plaintiff was not ‘forced’ to buy Content ID. Indeed, Plaintiff admits that it refused YouTube’s offer and nothing in the allegations suggests that Plaintiff ever purchased anything from YouTube or entered into any agreement,” Judge Gayles writes.
In addition, a successful claim involves some type of purchase, which isn’t the case here as the Content ID system is free of charge.
“Additionally, Plaintiff does not allege that it had to purchase Content ID. If Content ID is a free service offered by Defendants, Plaintiff’s claim must fail because the acceptance of a free service does not constitute an impermissible tie-in,” the order reads.
Based on these and other arguments, the court dismisses the antitrust claim against YouTube.
Expired Copyright Infringement Claims
Moving on to the copyright claims, the court agrees with Google that the three-year statute of limitations has passed for all alleged infringements that took place before May 3, 2018.
Google had requested to simply drop all copyright allegations as the movie tycoon lumped older and newer infringements together. However, Judge Gayles disagrees, which means that YouTube must defend itself against the more recent claims.
The same is true for the alleged DMCA claims. The movie tycoon accused YouTube of removing or altering ‘copyright management information’ while uploading videos from users, which would violate the DMCA.
YouTube countered that it wasn’t clear what copyright management information it had supposedly removed, or that it did so intentionally. However, Judge Gayles won’t dismiss these claims from the lawsuit at this stage.
All in all, this means that the case will continue without the antitrust allegations while limiting the copyright infringement allegations to the more recent uploads.
A copy of U.S. District Court Judge Darrin Gayles’ order ruling on Google’s motion to dismiss is available here (pdf)