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Maria Schneider wants Content ID case to be paused following class action decision

By | Published on Thursday 8 June 2023

Maria Schneider has asked the Ninth Circuit appeals court in the US to pause her ongoing legal battle with YouTube over who has access to Content ID, which is due to get to trial next week. That move follows a recent decision by the judge overseeing the litigation to not grant Schneider’s lawsuit class action status.

Schneider and others argue that YouTube does not do enough to help independent creators to stop the unlicensed distribution of their content on the video site. Because, while YouTube’s Content ID is a sophisticated rights management system, it is only available to large copyright owning businesses and content aggregators.

Independent creators have to manually monitor and manage the unlicensed use of their content by users on the YouTube platform. And the manual system provided by YouTube is defective, it’s alleged, meaning that the Google-owned company isn’t fulfilling its obligations under copyright law to ensure that all and any copyright owners can stop the infringement of their works on its platform.

Schneider was seeking class action status for the lawsuit, meaning any success in court could benefit all independent creators whose content has been used by third parties without permission on the YouTube site. But judge James Donato last month ruled that the case wasn’t suitable for a class action, because each creators’ specific copyright claims would need to be separately assessed.

Team Schneider reckon that that decision was “manifestly erroneous” and merits reversal by the appeals court. Meanwhile, they want the Ninth Circuit to stop next week’s court proceedings from going ahead, pending an appeal of the decision on class action certification.

Otherwise, Schneider’s lawyers said in a legal filing earlier this week, “plaintiffs will be forced to proceed to trial on 12 Jun on their individual claims. If the court reverses the district court’s denial of certification thereafter, the class claims will then need to be tried in a separate proceeding, resulting in plaintiffs incurring substantial costs associated with duplicative trials”.

“Further”, they add, “if plaintiffs are required to try their individual claims on 12 Jun, their claims in this litigation will be finally decided. At that point, even if the court reverses the district court’s denial of class certification, and even if plaintiffs have prevailed at trial, plaintiffs may perversely face the prospect that they are no longer viable class representatives”.

On top of that, the lawyers go on, since the case was declined its class action status YouTube has actually changed its defence strategy, specifically in relation to the copyright safe harbour, which protects internet companies from copyright liabilities, but also puts rights management obligations onto those companies.

Which means “the individual plaintiffs face having to try a case that will not result in what they have been trying to achieve – and what they would be able to achieve through class action litigation – a preclusive, final judgment on whether YouTube qualifies for the safe harbour”.

We await to see how the Ninth Circuit judges rule.