YouTube Rejects Movie Piracy Claims and Content ID Critique

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YouTube has responded to the piracy lawsuit filed last year by movie tycoon Carlos Vasallo. The streaming platform denies all copyright infringement allegations and sees the case as an attempt to get special Content ID treatment. YouTube also warns that its copyright management tool should not fall into the wrong hands since that could lead to misuse and censorship.

content-idLast 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.

The lawsuit accused YouTube of not doing enough to stop people from uploading pirated content. Those allegations aren’t new, but the movie tycoon also said that YouTube would not allow him to join the Content ID copyright protection program unless he agreed to specific terms, including a revenue share agreement.

Vasallo refused these terms and chose to send standard DMCA notices instead. YouTube processed them, as it should, but the movie tycoon complained that this did little to stop pirates. New copies were uploaded constantly and banned users reportedly returned using new names.

The movie tycoon also pointed out that YouTube’s repeat infringer policy resets copyright strikes after 90-days, after which the same users can upload copyright-infringing content again.

YouTube and Google responded to these allegations by filing a motion to dismiss, which was decided on last month. While the Florida federal court dropped the antitrust claims, the copyright allegations remained, meaning that YouTube must answer these in court.

YouTube Responds to Piracy Claims

Yesterday, the Google-owned streaming service submitted its response, denying many of the allegations. According to the company, Vasallo’s copyright claims lack specifics and amount to an attempt to obtain a tailored Content ID agreement.

“Plaintiff, through its representative Carlos Vasallo, was offered YouTube’s copyright management tools in 2015, including Content ID, but Plaintiff refused them. Plaintiff opted instead to use YouTube’s DMCA-compliant notice-and-takedown system.

“Now, seven years later, Plaintiff seeks an injunction against Defendants to force YouTube to provide Plaintiff with a non-existent version of Content ID tailor-made to Plaintiff’s preferences. Plaintiff’s claims of entitlement to Content ID are badly misguided; its claims of copyright infringement even more so,” YouTube notes.

Content ID is Not for Everyone

YouTube doesn’t plan to offer special treatment to the movie tycoon. The company maintains that its DMCA process and policy comply with the law. The Content ID system is an extra option that should only be used by trusted parties who agree to certain terms.

“Precisely because YouTube’s novel copyright management tools are so powerful, they must be used with care,” YouTube writes. If the Copyright ID system ends up in the wrong hands, it can lead to misuse and censorship.

“Misused or put in the wrong hands, these tools can be used to censor videos that others have every right to share through YouTube. These tools can also enable users to wrongfully claim ownership rights in others’ content or to take for themselves revenue that rightly belongs to others.”

YouTube’s answer doesn’t include much detail. The company simply denies many of the allegations and only admits the most straightforward claims, such as the statement that it has a notice-and-takedown system.

DMCA Matching?

The specific allegations will be argued as the case progresses. These include Vasallo’s complaint that YouTube only removes videos from specific URLs listed in takedown notices, without searching for other matching copies on its platform.

This “matching” process is not part of the DMCA process, but it appears that the movie tycoon would like YouTube to implement this feature nonetheless.

In addition to responding to Vasallo’s claims, YouTube also lists a series of defenses. Among other things, the company says that the DMCA’s safe harbor shields it from liability for user-uploaded content. And if any infringing content does appear, Vasallo could simply take it down with a DMCA notice.

A copy of Google/YouTube’s answer to the complaint and its affirmative defenses is available here (pdf)

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