Since June 2020, we have been reporting on a class action lawsuit filed by Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider against YouTube.
Schneider’s grievances are many. They include allegations that YouTube restricts access to its takedown tools, profits from piracy, and fails to disconnect repeat infringers due to them receiving ‘protection’ under YouTube’s Content ID system.
Given the nature of the complaint and especially since it targets one of the most powerful entities on the Internet, this was never going to be straightforward. As it transpires, progress has been nothing short of torturous.
Beginning with what YouTube described as fraudulent behavior by one of the plaintiffs through to demands to identify every single user on the platform that had received a takedown notice since 2015, the case has certainly lived up to the billing.
Throw into the mix a first amended complaint that added two new parties – Uniglobe Entertainment, LLC and AST Publishing – yet still failed to properly identify a single alleged copyright infringement relating to any of the parties – YouTube’s patience found itself stretched to the limit. Now, the Google-owned platform has had enough.
YouTube Wants The Entire Lawsuit Dismissed
“In this case filed nearly 18 months ago, Plaintiffs seek to assert copyright infringement claims on behalf of a sprawling putative class of copyright owners. One of the two original plaintiffs, Pirate Monitor, has since dismissed its claims with prejudice after YouTube uncovered proof of its wide-ranging fraud and after it acknowledged it did not own at least one of the copyrighted works it asserted,” YouTube informed the court this week.
“The other original plaintiff, Maria Schneider, faces insurmountable obstacles to her infringement claims, including because her publishing agent granted YouTube a blanket license to her musical works.”
Referencing the first amended complaint that added Uniglobe and AST, YouTube accuses them – along with Schneider – of “hiding the ball” on their claims.
Plaintiffs Ignored Court Order
One of the basics of copyright infringement lawsuits is to identify all of the copyrighted works affected but for reasons best known to the plaintiffs, this still hasn’t happened after 18 months, despite an order from the court.
“Ignoring this Court’s Order to identify all the copyrighted works at issue in the FAC [First Amended Complaint], Plaintiffs purport to reserve the right to pursue claims for new, unidentified works whenever they please. That not only flouts the Order, but also the law, which requires that all works at issue be identified in the operative pleading,” YouTube writes.
Another basic requirement of a copyright infringement lawsuit is to identify alleged infringements. That hasn’t happened either.
“The FAC does not identify a single video on YouTube that allegedly infringed Plaintiffs’ copyrights, much less identify at least one allegedly infringing video for each work at issue in the case,” the video platform adds.
“[T]o state a claim for infringement, a plaintiff cannot rely on generalized allegations of infringement, but must instead plead specifics. But there is not a single alleged infringement specified for any work identified in the FAC. Plaintiffs’ claims remain a moving target, significantly prejudicing YouTube’s ability to respond.”
This may represent a catch-22 for Schneider. The core of her complaint is that to easily identify infringements on YouTube, she needs access to Content ID, something that YouTube is not prepared to grant access to. By identifying the infringements in question without such access, it could raise questions about her demands.
Serious Copyright Registration Problems
Turning to the issue of copyright registrations, which are required to bring a claim in respect of allegedly infringed works, that is a problem too.
According to YouTube, the Copyright Office does not identify the plaintiffs as owners of the several works they cite in their complaint. Furthermore, official records show that Schneider and Uniglobe failed to obtain pre-suit copyright registration for many of the works in question.
“As a matter of law, the infringement claims as to those works cannot proceed. Uniglobe and AST also assert infringement claims based on unregistered foreign works and seek statutory damages and attorneys’ fees. But these remedies are legally unavailable for unregistered works,” YouTube adds.
YouTube Will Move to Dismiss The Case
Alleging that the plaintiffs are “still hiding the substance of their case” from the defendants some 18 months into the lawsuit, the companies say enough is enough.
“Plaintiffs’ refusal to provide basic information regarding their copyright infringement claims warrants dismissal of those claims,” they write.
YouTube and Google inform the court that they will move for an order to dismiss the claims of Schneider, Uniglobe and AST early March 2022.
The notice of motion and motion to dismiss can be found here (pdf)