Artist News Business News Digital Labels & Publishers Legal

Judge again says Maria Schneider v YouTube case likely needs to go to trial

By | Published on Monday 17 October 2022


The Californian judge overseeing the class action lawsuit being pursued by musician Maria Schneider against YouTube has again said that he doesn’t feel it would be appropriate to dismiss the case via summary judgement, reckoning there are key questions that can only be answered at trial.

Schnieder’s lawsuit argues that – while YouTube has its Content ID rights management system to help large-scale copyright owners manage the use and posting of their content by the Google-owned service’s users – for independent creators who don’t have access to that system it’s impossible to monitor and manage the unlicensed use of their work on the video platform.

And, she adds, the manual takedown systems offered by YouTube to those independent creators are not sufficient, which means the Google site is not fulfilling its obligations to enjoy safe harbour protection from liability for the copyright infringement on its platform.

There have been plenty of twists and turns in this dispute, not least because Schneider was originally joined by a co-plaintiff who then had to drop out after being accused of some dodgy dealings in his attempts to get access to Content ID.

Throughout YouTube has been trying to get the litigation dismissed, often arguing that Schneider does in fact have access to Content ID via her distributor, and that her music industry business partners had actually provided licences covering her music.

However, generally the judge overseeing the case, James Donato, has knocked back those dismissal requests, including earlier this summer when he said that YouTube’s arguments in favour of dismissal were “unavailing” and “not well taken”.

According to Law360, there was another hearing on the case last week. Among other things, there was a discussion about one of Schneider’s specific complaints about YouTube, to the effect that the video site allows copyright management information – ie metadata about the rights in any one piece of content – to be removed as that content is uploaded.

On that specific point too, Schneider’s arguments fail, YouTube’s legal rep argued. “Ms Schneider has to show … that [the data] was removed, that it was removed intentionally, without authorisation, and that YouTube knew or should have known that removal of that [data] would foment copyright claims. She fails at every step”.

Needless to say, Schneider’s attorney did not concur. In fact, he argued, when a video is uploaded to YouTube any unique identifier relating to the sound recoding in the video – ie the ISRC – is removed. “They know that – and they know every sound recording has to have it”, the lawyer added.

For his part, Donato said that he wasn’t in a position to say which side was right but, either way, as with other parts of the dispute, there are enough questions to be answered to require this whole thing to go properly to trial before a jury.

“I’m not saying plaintiffs are right or wrong, I’m just saying there’s enough of a fact dispute that this probably has to go to trial”, he said, later telling the YouTube side: “I don’t see how you get summary judgment”.

And so the dispute continues.