Earlier this year, Spanish-born movie tycoon Carlos Vasallo sued YouTube over various piracy related claims.
The actor and producer own the rights to the world’s largest collection of Mexican and Latin American movies, many of which are illegally shared on YouTube.
‘Unfair Content-ID Requirements’
While copyright allegations against Google and YouTube aren’t new, the case carried an interesting allegation. According to Vasallo, YouTube would only allow him to join the Content-ID copyright protection program if he agreed to a revenue share deal and released all possible piracy claims that took place in the past.
These discussions took place in 2015 and the movie tycoon refused to agree to the terms. Instead, his company Athos Overseas continued to rely on standard DMCA takedown notices, of which it sent more than 100,000 over the years.
YouTube responded to these takedown requests and removed the infringing material. However, pirated movies continued to be uploaded. This prompted Vasallo to take YouTube to court, accusing the video platform of willingly profiting from copyright infringement.
‘YouTube Profits from Piracy’
The complaint covers a wide range of allegations and claims. Among other things, the movie tycoon argues that YouTube failed to take reasonable steps to anticipate and filter potential copyright infringements.
Monitoring and filtering is not a requirement under US law but Vasallo points out that YouTube has the ability to do so. It allegedly chooses not to filter, in order to profit from infringing content on the platform.
“While YouTube is a known leader in the subject industry with access to the resources necessary to detect and prevent the exploitation and infringement of copyrighted materials, YouTube foregoes its use of the referenced resources to further its profit-driven purpose of monetizing all uploaded videos,” the complaint alleged.
‘Statute of Limitations Expired’
This week YouTube responded to the lawsuit. The video platform and its parent company Google don’t discuss the allegations in detail but point out that, for many claims, the statute of limitations has expired.
For example, the unfair and deceptive trade practice claims, which apply to YouTube’s requirements to join the Content-ID system, have a statute of limitations of four years. These four years have already expired.
“Those discussions are all alleged to have occurred, in their entirety, in 2015, and whatever claims Plaintiff might have based on YouTube’s offer fully accrued at that time,” YouTube writes.
Dated Copyright Infrigements
Many of the copyright claims fail as well, YouTube argues. The Copyright Act has a three-year statute of limitations for copyright infringement and many of the alleged violations took place earlier.
“Here, Plaintiff points to numerous alleged infringements and violations that occurred before that [three year] window, and the Complaint makes no effort to take account of the limitations period,” YouTube notes.
“It is not Defendants’ or the Court’s job to sort out what claims Plaintiff can actually assert within the Copyright Act’s lookback period. Instead, the Court should dismiss the copyright causes of action with instructions that Plaintiff may assert only such claims that accrued after May 3, 2018.”
More Grounds to Dismiss
The statute of limitations is not the only problem area as YouTube sees deficiencies in other claims as well. For example, the movie tycoon accused the platform of allowing users to remove ‘copyright management information,’ which would violate the DMCA.
Copyright management information includes metadata such as the ID3 tags but, according to YouTube, it’s not clear what the company did wrong or failed to do.
“The Complaint does not identify any copyright management information that YouTube supposedly removed from any video containing Plaintiff’s copyrighted works, let alone allege any facts to support a plausible inference that YouTube did so intentionally..,” YouTube writes.
All in all, YouTube believes that the complaint is insufficient in its current form and the company asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
A copy of YouTube and Google’s motion to dismiss, filed at a Florida federal court, is available here (pdf)