During the summer, Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider and Virgin Islands-based Pirate Monitor Ltd teamed up to file a class-action lawsuit targeting YouTube.
The complaint centered on allegations that YouTube’s copyright infringement mechanisms are deficient, claiming that the company refuses to grant “ordinary creators” access to its sophisticated copyright management tools known as Content ID.
During September, YouTube fought back stating that it already goes above and beyond its obligations under the law when dealing with infringing content. The sting in the tail came in the form of additional claims, from YouTube and its owner Google, that Pirate Monitor could not be trusted to use Content ID.
According to YouTube, Pirate Monitor deployed “authorized agents” to create bogus YouTube accounts that uploaded hundreds of videos which it later took down using copyright complaints. The alleged goal was to create the impression of mass infringement in support of the class action.
Pirate Monitor Fights Back
In a motion to dismiss YouTube and Google’s counterclaims, filed on Friday, Pirate Monitor states that YouTube provided no evidence to back up the general claims that the uploaders of the videos in question had anything to do with Pirate Monitor.
“The counterclaims contain no factual allegations indicating whether the unidentified individuals were, for example, employees, officers, agents, or independent contractors of Pirate Monitor, or the scope of their authority to purportedly act on Pirate Monitor’s behalf,” the motion reads.
“As a result, the Court should disregard Defendants’ conclusory allegation that the unidentified individuals were ‘authorized agents’ of Pirate Monitor as well as their improper references to the unidentified individuals as ‘Pirate Monitor’.”
Based on the allegation that the uploaders were “authorized agents” of Pirate Monitor, YouTube previously said that declarations made to the company at the point of upload (that the content was not infringing) amounted to fraud since they breached YouTube’s Terms of Service.
Pirate Monitor believes that such serious claims need to be backed up by hard evidence.
“A claim of fraud must satisfy the heightened pleading requirements of Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and will be dismissed unless it ‘specif[ies] such facts as the times, dates, places, benefits received, and other details of the alleged fraudulent activity’,” the company writes, adding that information relating to “who, what, when, where and how” must be provided to the court.
“Because Defendants fail to offer any well-pleaded facts plausibly showing that the unidentified individuals are agents of Pirate Monitor; and were acting in the course of and within the scope of that agency relationship when they engaged in the conduct alleged in Defendants’ three counterclaims, those counterclaims fail as a matter of law and should be dismissed,” Pirate Monitor adds.
Counterclaims For Fraud & DMCA Abuse Should be Dismissed
Pirate Monitor takes a similar position on YouTube’s claims that the DMCA notices that took down allegedly-infringing content were also submitted fraudulently. At no point does Pirate Monitor deny that YouTube’s claims are untrue but simply states that platform has failed to meet the standards required for such claims to be considered.
Noting that “justifiable reliance” is a necessary part of any fraud claim under California law, Pirate Monitor insists that supporting facts must be sufficiently specific. The absence of such information in its pleadings is “fatal” to YouTube’s counterclaim, Pirate Monitor adds, noting that the video platform has not “alleged any facts showing they were justified in relying on the representations of individuals they cannot identify to this
day, let alone the particularized facts necessary to avoid dismissal..”
YouTube’s Demands For an Injunction Should Be Dismissed
In its counterclaim, YouTube demanded damages to compensate for Pirate Monitor’s actions and also requested a punitive damages award to compensate for the company’s “fraudulent conduct”.
The video platform further sought an injunction to prevent Pirate Monitor and its agents from submitting any additional DMCA notices with YouTube that wrongfully claim that content on the YouTube service infringes copyrights held by Pirate Monitor or anyone it claims to represent.
According to Pirate Monitor, these requests should all be dismissed as YouTube lacks Article III standing.
Again, this centers around YouTube’s failure to provide evidence, with Pirate Monitor pointing out that the request for injunctive relief is based on past wrongs, including the allegedly-fraudulent DMCA takedown notices for which YouTube has failed to support with “even a single fact showing a real and immediate threat that Pirate Monitor will
commit those alleged wrongs in the future.”
Given that it seems unlikely that YouTube simply pulled the serious allegations in its counterclaims out of thin air, at some point the supporting evidence against Pirate Monitor and/or its “agents” will probably be revealed at some point and could even prove pivotal to the case.
Schneider/Pirate Monitor’s Motion to Dismiss Counterclaims can be found here (pdf)