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Italian record industry sues Vimeo

By | Published on Thursday 6 May 2021


The record industry in Italy is suing Vimeo in the latest legal case testing the obligations of safe harbour dwelling websites and platforms when it comes to removing copyright-infringing content.

There’s a saying among the YouTube creator community – especially the reactors who, by definition, need to include other people’s content in their videos – and it goes something like this: “If Content ID blocks your upload on copyright grounds, just stick it up on Dailymotion or Vimeo because, fuck it, it’ll probably be fine there”.

Of course, you have to remember to also put a post on your YouTube channel linking subscribers though to your content on whichever copyright-slack platform you’ve chosen. But, once you’ve done that, you’re sorted. Simple.

But anyway, yes, the record industry is having another go at suing video-sharing platform Vimeo over its allegedly slack approach to rights management and copyright takedowns. Well, it’s better than having a go at suing Dailymotion and its owner – erm, who was that again? – oh yes, Vivendi, the parent company of Universal Music and movie maker StudioCanal.

We should add that both Vimeo and Dailymotion do have systems in place via which copyright owners can request that videos containing their content without permission be removed.

Such a system is required, of course, for those platforms to claim protection under the copyright safe harbour and avoid liability for any infringing materials sitting on their servers. Neither has a rights management system has rigorous as YouTube’s Content ID though. But are their systems nevertheless rigorous enough to win them safe harbour protection?

Well that’s the question, isn’t it? The Italian music industry reckons not, hence the new lawsuit. The country’s record industry trade group FIMI and anti-piracy set-up FPM has teamed up with the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry to go legal through the Italian courts.

It’s not the first time Vimeo has been sued by the record industry over its takedown systems, though the previous long-running unsuccessful litigation – instigated by the EMI record company prior to its acquisition by Universal – was fought through the US courts. It also kicked off in 2009, and arguably the obligations of safe harbour dwelling platforms have been interpreted somewhat more strictly in more recent years, on both sides of the Atlantic. But we’ll see, I guess.

Commenting on the new legal action in Italy, IFPI boss Frances Moore, said: “Vimeo has fallen short of its obligation as an online content sharing service to take effective steps to prevent unlicensed music from being made available on its site. Significant amounts of unlicensed music are being uploaded and re-uploaded to its service. That is why the recording industry has taken action against Vimeo in Italy”.

“Record labels invest heavily in discovering, nurturing, and promoting artists”, she added. “The making available of unlicensed sound recordings harms their ability to secure a return on their investment which is crucial to their ability to invest in new artists”.

The new lawsuit comes at an interesting time for Vimeo. Its parent company IAC is preparing to spin the video platform off as a standalone business and then list it on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York.