Artist News Business News Digital Labels & Publishers Legal

Judge seems unconvinced that YouTube Content ID dispute should be granted class action status

By | Published on Monday 17 April 2023


A US judge seemed to indicate last week that he isn’t convinced that an ongoing legal battle over who has access to YouTube’s Content ID system should be certified as a class action.

This all relates to the lawsuit originally filed by musician Maria Schneider. She, and other independent creators, take issue with the fact that – while bigger copyright owners and content aggregators get access to YouTube’s Content ID rights management system – independent creators and smaller rights owners do not.

They either have to ally with a bigger entity that has Content ID access, or manually file takedown notices in relation to any videos uploaded to YouTube that contain music or other copyright protected material without licence. But, Team Schneider argues, YouTube’s manual takedown system is cumbersome and impractical.

YouTube, of course, is obliged to remove copyright infringing material from its platform when made aware of it in order to qualify for safe harbour protection from liability for any infringing uploads. The argument goes that, for copyright owners not granted Content ID access, the Google video site isn’t doing enough to meet that obligation.

There are other elements to the legal dispute too, including allegations that YouTube removes some key copyright data from files on its platform, such as the ISRC that identifies a recording.

All of this has been rumbling on for some time. Schneider and the other copyright owners now associated with the lawsuit want it to be granted class action status, so that any positive result in court could benefit other creators and rights-owners who do not have Content ID access.

However, according to Law360, at a hearing last week district judge James Donato seemed to think that class action status was not appropriate.

The judge said that issues identifying who owns and controls any one copyright raised in any one complaint, and assessing whether any one video actually infringes copyright, probably needs to be done on a case by case basis, rather than for an entire class of plaintiffs.

Although Donato did not actually make a final judgement on the bid for class action status, he did say: “I just don’t see how you’re going to prove on a class-wide basis that works were infringed”.

We now await a formal decision on this matter.