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Maria Schneider says she can’t meet YouTube’s demands in Content ID access case without access to Content ID

By | Published on Wednesday 21 April 2021


The back and forth continues between musician Maria Schneider and YouTube in the legal dispute over who has access to the latter’s Content ID rights management system.

YouTube says it needs more information about all the places where Schneider’s songs are being used without licence on its platform. She counters that she wants to know that too, which is why she needs access to fucking Content ID.

Schneider’s lawsuit – which originally also involved film director Gábor Csupó via his anti-piracy company Pirate Monitor – argues that, while YouTube’s Content ID system is pretty good at helping rights-owners find and deal with any videos on the site that contain their content without permission, too few creators and rights-owners have access to it. And that the manual systems for requesting content be removed from YouTube – ie what everyone else has to use – are pretty mediocre.

Websites like YouTube are obliged to operate takedown systems, of course, if they want to benefit from the copyright safe harbour and avoid liability for the infringing content swimming around their servers. By only offering Content ID access to the major players and operating a shoddy takedown system for everyone else, Schneider argues, YouTube should be deprived that all important safe harbour protection.

The litigation is now in the discovery phase, with both sides making demands of the other.

In a recent filing with the court, YouTube says that while it has more or less agreed a case schedule with the Schneider side the two parties still “disagree about a critical issue of case management: whether plaintiff Maria Schneider must identify the copyrighted works and alleged infringements of those works at issue – and do so by clear deadlines that give defendants a fair opportunity to take discovery into each infringement claim”.

It goes on: “Schneider’s complaint alleges she owns three copyrighted works that were infringed on YouTube. It does not identify a single YouTube video that she claims is infringing. Instead, Schneider contends that her potential copyright claims against YouTube are boundless. She [also] insists that she is allowed to put at issue dozens of unpleaded works and allegedly infringing videos, and that she can do so whenever she wants. Plaintiff’s approach is misguided”.

“Defendants need to know, sufficiently before the end of discovery”, it then states, “the full universe of copyrighted works and alleged infringements at issue. Without that information, defendants will be unable to take discovery to support their defences, most of which are necessarily work- or video-specific”.

To that end YouTube asks the court to set deadlines by which “Schneider must: (1) amend her complaint to identify the copyrighted works in suit; and (2) identify all alleged instances of infringement of those works on YouTube that are at issue”.

Responding, the Schneider side says that the discovery demands being made by YouTube are impractical, unfair and lack legal merit.

“Because YouTube depends on users to upload content, the number of infringements on YouTube constantly increases, with more than 500 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute”, the musician says in a response filing.

“To even attempt to identify every infringement, plaintiff would have to constantly search for infringing videos using manual keyword searches that hit upon the specific words chosen by the uploading infringer. Such an endeavour would be futile and unduly burdensome”.

Of course, the legal filing then notes, that whole process would be much, much easier if only YouTube would give Schneider the access to Content ID that her original lawsuit sought. And, also, given that YouTube does have access to its own rights management tools, it’s reasonable to expect the Google site to do that work itself.

“Defendants’ position that plaintiff must identify the URL of all infringing videos is thus the height of irony – the impossibility of manually locating all instances of infringement of her works without access to Content ID motivated this lawsuit”, the legal filing adds. “It is defendants, not plaintiff, who can easily identify videos incorporating her works with Content ID, yet defendants have categorically refused to use or allow plaintiff to use Content ID to do so”.

“Thus, while demanding that plaintiff manually scour YouTube to identify all infringing videos prior to the close of discovery, defendants have access to a tool that could automatically identify all of the videos on YouTube containing plaintiff’s works but that they will not let her use or use themselves. Requiring plaintiff to undertake this enormous and futile endeavour, while defendants themselves have a tool that would make such identification possible, would be patently unfair”.

And, to that end, Schneider argues, YouTube’s most recent requests of the court should be denied.