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August 29, 2015

YouTube sued for copyright infringement

by Joel Keller, posted Jul 20th 2006 9:31AM
YouTube logoYouTube has kind of a weird policy when it comes to copyrights. Essentially, they will leave a clip up on their site until the copyright holder contacts them and tells them to take it down. I guess it's easier to do it that way than to police the thousands of clips that get uploaded to the site every day. But that does leave it open to infringement lawsuits.

So, the fact that no one's sued them until now is equally strange. Robert Tur, a freelance news reporter, is the first to do it, suing the site for putting up his report on the 1992 L.A. riots without his permission. Now, the folks at YouTube took the clip down after he requested it, but Tur decided to sue anyway. This ought to be an interesting case; even though the site cooperated with his request, was it still up long enough to infringe upon his copyright? The site says the case is "without merit", but I'm not so sure about that. What do you folks think?

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I'm not sure how it will play into this legal battle, but there is a big difference between grokster and youtube that should be noted. In the case of grokster, they were not hosting any infringing files on their servers. They were simply providing a conduit for those that were hosting the files to transfer them to other users. Where youtube might get into trouble is the fact that they are hosting, and distributing, this content.

It could be argued that not knowing what is going on on their servers is negligence. Also, I think the fact that they do manage to keep most of the porn off of the site shows that they are monitoring uploads to some degree and just ignoring obviously infringing material.

Whether you want to believe that they just don't know about it, or that they do, but also know that the infringing files will bring more users to the site, is another question.

July 20 2006 at 7:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My (admittedly ignorant) understanding was that the Grokster decision was based on its promotion based around copyright infringement, ads that promoted its use as a way to infringe on copyright. YouTube is promoted as a site to share user-created material, and they seem to make every effort to enforce that. Wouldn't Tur's attorneys have to prove that YouTube actively invited the copyright infringement?

July 20 2006 at 6:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had never heard of Robert Tur and his work from 14 years ago until I saw this article. I agree with some of the preceding comments, such as that just because YouTube cannot monitor everything doesn't mean they're not liable, and that suing them anyway when they took the clip down promptly is just a cheap ploy at making a quick buck. The bottom line, in my opinion, is that this guy ought to be glad someone cared about his work from 14 stinkin' years ago and be glad. If you don't want it up without your permission--which is why, I assume, he got it copyrighted--then demand they take it down. When they comply promptly, go your merry way and quit making a federal case out of it!!!! Waah, I wanna' sue. Please...

July 20 2006 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The reason the case is without merit is that YouTube, as the service provider, is protected by "safe harbor" (it's in the DMCA). As long as the copyright holder makes a request to have the infringing material removed and YouTube does so right away, there is no case.

July 20 2006 at 12:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Allen Mendelsohn

While I agree with Evadne that this reporter is doing this for his own publicity reasons, I have to disagree with Vito when he says YouTube will beat this.

I am an attorney who works at a web firm and I have some knowledge of these matters. The fact that YouTube's model makes it near impossible for them to monitor what is copyrighted is absolutely not a bar to them losing a lawsuit. In fact, it may work the opposite way - the system itself is designed to facilitate copyright violation - this is what doomed Grokster in the Supreme Court. The fact that Napster and Grokster were used for legitimate non-copyright violating reasons (which is what Vito argues for YouTube) is not a defense.

In that case, Justice Souter wrote: ""We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement."

Now there will be questions as to whether they took "affirmative steps," but the technology alone could be shown to be those steps.

I really think on the facts, and based on the Grokster case (which this case will undoubtedly mirror in a lot of ways) there is a good shot YouTube could lose. The issue will be damages - there is no way the reporter could show he suffered from the violation. If anything, he has benefited from it by having his report broadcast where otherwise it would not have been.

This is just the beginning for YouTube's legal troubles I predict.

July 20 2006 at 12:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Evan Erwin

The very definition of "without merit".

July 20 2006 at 12:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

who is robert tur? and why do we care about him? It seems to me that he is just trying to make a few bucks. Did he really loose anything by having the clip on the site for a few hours?

July 20 2006 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They have a notice up of methods for companies to remove copyrighted content from the site, and this company didn't even do THAT before filing the suit. No judge is going to give this guy a decision in his favor when he didn't even care enough to follow the normal procedure. That's like being hit by a car, driving away, then charging the driver for hit and run.

And even if they had, is YouTube supposed to have some magic database that automatically recognizes images from any copyrighted source ever in existence? That's both implausible and would be, in and of itself, a massive copyright violation. With as much copyrighted stuff (and even public domain stuff) as YouTube has removed from the site, and as much legitimately original material as they host, I don't think they'll have a problem beating this.

July 20 2006 at 10:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So what I'm getting from this is that this "freelance news reporter" thought he'd capitalize on uneasiness about YouTube's copyright policies and growing popularity by launching a lawsuit and ohbytheway getting his name in the papers. Legally, I have no idea if his lawsuit has merit; I guess it probably does. Practically, though--dude, they took your clip down, and you're a -news reporter-. You'd think he'd be glad people were still interested in work he did in 1992.

July 20 2006 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i think its aobvious Tur is doing it to make a quick buck through settlement, and that by definiton makes it frivolous. The question is wether Youtube is liable. The reason the P2P were onsidered illegal is because they were primarily created to share illegal data. However that is not YouTubes purpose, and they can easily claim it is there to share personal and un-copyrighted, material, and if a user decides to post copyrighted material he is to blame, and all you can expect is for them to remove the material when asked to do so

July 20 2006 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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