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Pirate Monitor hits back against YouTube in Content ID dispute

By | Published on Tuesday 24 November 2020


Rights management company Pirate Monitor has hit back at YouTube, which accused the firm of dodgy dealing as part of an ongoing dispute over who should have access to the Google video site’s Content ID platform.

Pirate Monitor teamed up with musician Maria Schneider earlier this year to sue YouTube over its systems for removing copyright-infringing content that is uploaded to the video site. YouTube, of course, has to have a takedown system in place via which copyright owners can get infringing content removed in order to qualify for safe harbour protection, so that it can’t be held liable itself for the copyright infringement of its users.

As takedown systems go, YouTube’s Content ID is pretty good. But not everyone has access to it. Which was the point of Pirate Monitor and Schneider’s lawsuit. They argued that while Content ID goes beyond YouTube’s legal obligations when it comes to takedowns, because only bigger rights-owners and aggregators have access to it, for smaller operators that’s no help. And, they argued, the alternative system for manually issuing takedown requests against YouTube is not good enough.

In its response to that lawsuit, YouTube argued that Content ID is a powerful tool that allows users to block and monetise other people’s videos, and therefore it has to be very careful who has access to it. Independent creators, it then said, could still access the platform by allying with a distributor or aggregator. Which, it added, Schneider has done, with her agent having generated revenues for the musician via the Content ID system.

As for Pirate Monitor, YouTube said, it was proof of why the Google company had to be careful of who had Content ID access. Because, it alleged, Pirate Monitor had been involved in some dodgy activities, which demonstrated why it couldn’t be trusted to use Content ID responsibility.

That was all based on claims that, in a bid to prove it was a big enough concern to have Content ID access, Pirate Monitor had got third parties to set up various anonymous accounts on YouTube via which it uploaded snippets of films controlled by its own clients. It would then issue takedown requests against that content.

Given that when you upload content to YouTube you agree to terms covering copyright, that scheme, YouTube argued, meant Pirate Monitor and its agents were either “fraudulently claiming to have the rights to upload video clips to the anonymous channels, or falsely claiming that those clips infringed copyright and should be taken down”.

But Pirate Monitor has denied those claims in new court papers, arguing that YouTube has failed to provide any evidence linking the rights management company to the anonymous channels where content it represents was uploaded.

“Under any pleading standard … all of defendants’ counterclaims fail because defendants have failed to adequately allege the relationship between Pirate Monitor and the unidentified individuals under rudimentary principles of agency”, it says in its new legal filing.

“Defendants do not offer a single well-pleaded fact showing that any of the unidentified individuals were agents of Pirate Monitor acting in the course of and within the scope of their authority when they engaged in any of the actions alleged in defendants’ counterclaims”, it then adds.

With that in mind, Pirate Monitor wants the court to dismiss YouTube’s counterclaim in this dispute entirely.