Last summer, Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider filed a class action lawsuit against YouTube, claiming massive deficiencies in its copyright enforcement measures.
Schneider claims that YouTube restricts access to its takedown tools, profits from infringement, and fails to terminate repeat infringers. Noting that 98% of YouTube copyright issues are resolved with Content ID, Schneider says that YouTube has “entirely insulated” huge numbers of users from its repeat infringer policies.
“This two-tiered system essentially trains YouTube’s billions of uploading users that there is essentially minimal risk to uploading to their hearts’ content,” the complaint reads.
As previously reported, Schneider was joined in the class action by a company called Pirate Monitor, which alleged that many of its copyrighted works appeared on YouTube in breach of copyright. YouTube, however, claims that the company itself uploaded those works before sending its own takedown notices.
Lawsuit Claims That Content ID Should Not Shield Repeat Infringers
Determined to show that YouTube’s approach to copyright enforcement is lacking, Schneider’s legal team is demanding that the video platform hands over information about infringement on the platform. This should include information about actions carried out under Content ID and following regular takedown notices.
“Both elements of this two-tiered system are relevant to the claims here including because of their role in establishing whether Defendants should be prohibited from taking advantage of safe harbors against copyright liability granted by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, 17 U.S.C. § 512 (‘DMCA’),” a new filing from Schneider reads.
“Those safe harbors are not available absent ‘a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of’ uploaders ‘who are repeat infringers’.”
The issue of how Internet services deal with repeat infringers is a thorny one that can lead to huge damages awards, as illustrated by the $1 billion award in the RIAA’s lawsuit against Cox Communications. Schneider’s lawsuit aims to show that YouTube is negligent too, since infringements dealt with under Content ID do not result in action against uploaders’ accounts.
“Infringement caught by Content ID is excluded entirely. Defendants’ failure to assess penalties, including copyright strikes and termination for these repeat infringers: (i) fails to satisfy the reasonableness requirement to track and terminate repeat infringers as required for the safe harbors; (ii) encourages and incentivizes users to continue posting infringing content; and (iii) creates the constructive (if not actual) knowledge of infringement that is an independent basis to deny access to the DMCA safe harbors,” the filing reads.
Lawsuit Demands Massive Access to YouTube Infringement Records
To show the scale of infringement on YouTube (and YouTube’s alleged failure to properly deal with repeat infringers), Schneider is demanding that YouTube hands over large amounts of data. Precisely how large remains to be seen but describing the request as ‘broad’ is likely to underestimate the request.
In summary, Schneider initially asked YouTube to provide copies of every single takedown notice filed with the platform. That request was rejected, with YouTube instead agreeing to only hand over notices filed by the plaintiffs, claiming that beyond that would amount to a huge burden, even if it had the information in a deliverable format.
In what appears to be a counteroffer, Schneider narrowed her demands – but not by much. She now wants YouTube to identify EVERY person that has filed a copyright takedown notice since January 1, 2015. That information should include information such as dates, the works allegedly infringed, and the URL of the targeted content.
Schneider also wants the details of EVERY YouTube user targeted by these takedown notices including their account names, email addresses, and IP addresses used to upload the content targeted by the notices.
Schneider further demands a full accounting by YouTube detailing all steps taken to resolve every takedown notice, any evidence the platform holds on registrations of copyright works listed in notices, the outcome in every case, and whether YouTube still holds copies of the works listed in notices.
YouTube Refuses to Play Ball
YouTube appears to be less than impressed with Schneider’s demands. Indeed, according to Friday’s filing, the Google-owned platform is only prepared to hand over one month’s worth of takedown notices but according to Schneider, that “ignores the purpose and need of this discovery and thus is not a meaningful compromise.”
Indeed, in its responses to Schneider’s requests for information, YouTube describes the demands as “overly broad” and “unduly burdensome” almost three dozen times. Whether the judge will agree with that position remains to be seen.
The discovery brief can be found here (pdf)