In the hope of accessing YouTube’s Content ID system, in 2020 musician Maria Schneider launched a class action lawsuit that alleged mass infringement and serious deficiencies in YouTube’s copyright enforcement measures.
She did so with the support of a shadowy company called ‘Pirate Monitor’ but an in-depth investigation by YouTube later revealed that the entity was up to no good.
In order to build its case against YouTube, Pirate Monitor had uploaded around 2,000 movie clips to YouTube and then filed fraudulent takedown notices to have that content removed. It later admitted it didn’t hold the copyrights to the works it asserted in the case.
YouTube went on to file a counterclaim and named Hungarian film director and California resident Gábor Csupó (who previously worked on The Simpsons, Rugrats, Duckman, Stressed Eric, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters) as the person presiding over Pirate Monitor.
With allegations of fraud threatening to bring the class into disrepute, Pirate Monitor voluntarily dismissed its claims against YouTube but the video platform refused to back down, keeping the allegations of a “wide-ranging fraud” in its counterclaim intact.
In the wake of Pirate Monitor’s withdrawal, Schneider filed a first amended complaint that added two new parties to the action – Uniglobe Entertainment, LLC and AST Publishing. Yet again (and as it did earlier with Schneider and Pirate Monitor) YouTube pointed out huge deficiencies in the claims of the new companies and in December asked the court to dismiss the entire complaint.
Plaintiffs Want Counterclaim Handed Separately
In the meantime, however, Pirate Monitor and its behavior are back at the forefront of the case after the plaintiffs asked the court to sever YouTube’s counterclaim from the case so it can be handled separately. Predictably, YouTube is having none of it.
In its opposition to the motion to sever, YouTube says that after “handpicking” Pirate Monitor to lead the putative class action based on claims that it was suffering in the same way as other copyright holders around the world, Pirate Monitor was held up as a “perfect example” of a copyright holder wrongly denied access to Content ID. With its “fraudulent” actions showing otherwise, the opposite was evident.
“Pirate Monitor has instead proven to be a perfect example of why YouTube does not — and cannot — offer Content ID to everyone,” YouTube’s response reads. “Giving Pirate Monitor the power to control and block videos based on bogus copyright claims like those it asserted here could have visited significant hardship on countless YouTube users.”
YouTube says that when the plaintiffs could no longer deny Pirate Monitor’s misconduct, the company dismissed its own claims with prejudice. This demonstrates that the plaintiffs only wish to sever YouTube’s counterclaims against Pirate Monitor because its own actions support YouTube’s position that Content ID access will be abused if they allow anyone to use it.
“It is hard to imagine a better embodiment of YouTube’s concerns about Content ID misuse than Pirate Monitor. Its baseless assertion of copyright ownership and its fraudulent infringement claims would, if made through Content ID’s automated machinery, wreak havoc on other users and YouTube itself. As a result, the presentation of YouTube’s counterclaims against Pirate Monitor will confirm the need for Content ID access restrictions and refute Plaintiffs’ charge that the restrictions are intended to enable ‘copyright piracy’,” YouTube writes.
“Plaintiffs chose Pirate Monitor as their standard bearer at the start of this case,” the video platform continues.
“They understandably now wish to distance themselves as much as possible. But the overlap between Plaintiffs’ affirmative claims, YouTube’s counterclaims, and Pirate Monitor’s defenses is plain, and no legitimate interests would be served by severing the counterclaims at this point.”
“YouTube Believes Pirate Monitor Sullys The Case”
In their reply in support of their motion to sever, the plaintiffs frame things very differently. They argue that the idea of severance is to promote judicial economy and to avoid prejudice. They note that YouTube is seeking $20,000 in its counterclaim against Pirate Monitor but that has already resulted in “significant waste and prejudice.”
According to them, YouTube has already spent in excess of $100,000 in attorney’s fees litigating its counterclaims, an “exponential disparity” that makes a settlement “the only rational path” to resolve the claims. Indeed, the plaintiffs claim that severance would facilitate such a settlement but they believe YouTube isn’t interested in the money.
“The sole justification for this waste is YouTube’s improper desire to distract from the claims brought by Plaintiffs Maria Schneider, Uniglobe Entertainment, and AST Publishing in their pursuit of class-wide relief,” they inform the court.
“If the cases are not decoupled, however, YouTube will continue to press the claims against Pirate Monitor for the simple reason that YouTube believes these claims sully the class and will unduly influence the decision-maker — inappropriate reasons to contest severance.”
The plaintiffs further state that YouTube is using its counterclaims against Pirate Monitor as a “guilt-by-association weapon to be wielded against Plaintiffs and the putative class,” adding that severance would not prejudice YouTube.