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RIAA seeks to get its legal costs covered in ongoing Yout dispute

By | Published on Wednesday 2 November 2022


The Recording Industry Association Of America has asked the US court that oversaw its recent legal battle with stream-ripping site Yout to award it legal costs of $250,000.

While the music industry has sued and threatened to sue a number of stream-ripping sites – which allow people to download permanent copies of temporary streams, most often YouTube streams – in this case it was actually Yout that sued the RIAA. It went legal after the record industry trade group sought to have the Yout service de-listed from the Google search engine.

Yout wanted the court to confirm that its service was legal and therefore the RIAA shouldn’t have tried to get it de-listed from Google on copyright grounds. Once underway, the legal battle mainly focused on whether or not Yout circumvented technical protection measures put in place by YouTube to stop people from making copies of its streams, because circumventing such measures is not allowed under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The stream-ripping service argued that YouTube didn’t have any technical protection measures in place because, actually, anyone with the know how can download a copy of a stream from the Google video site via their web browser. However, doing so involves a number of tedious steps, and – the RIAA argued – the ways in which YouTube has made it tricky to download content from its site constitutes a technical protection measure.

The judge ultimately sided with the RIAA and dismissed Yout’s lawsuit, concluding that “Yout has not plausibly pled that YouTube lacks a technological measure; …that the YouTube technological measure is not effective; …that Yout has not circumvented the YouTube technological measure; …and that Yout has not violated [the anti-circumvention provision] of the DMCA”.

He also concluded that “re-pleading is futile”, which basically means that there is no point in Yout filing an amended lawsuit in his court – the stream-ripper having already done that once as the dispute went through the motions. Nevertheless, Yout is seemingly planning on appealing the ruling by taking the case to the Second Circuit appeals court.

In the meantime, the RIAA is pushing to have its legal costs covered. In its bid to persuade the judge to order Yout to cover at least some of its attorney fees, the trade body argues that the stream-ripper’s claims were always implausible and its lawsuit therefore unreasonable. And not only that, it reckons, Yout’s legal action was basically a delaying tactic and a publicity stunt.

“Plaintiff Yout LLC filed this suit against RIAA”, it states in a new legal filing this week, “on the implausible claim that its stream-ripping software, which allows users to download audio and video from streaming services, does not circumvent technological measures that restrict access to digital music video files on YouTube”.

“Yout’s suit was meritless from the beginning”, it adds, noting the dismissal and the judge’s statement about re-filing its claim. It went on: “Re-pleading is futile because, as anyone who has ever used YouTube knows, YouTube’s users can watch and listen to music videos for free on its ad-supported service, but those users cannot download digital files that contain the record companies’ most valuable copyrighted works”.

“YouTube prevents such downloads through built-in technology that safeguards underlying digital files – safeguards that Yout’s stream-ripping service circumvents to access those files”, it says. “Yout’s conduct violates the express prohibition in YouTube’s terms of service and is textbook circumvention”.

“In the face of these obvious facts”, the RIAA argues, “Yout brought an unreasonable suit to achieve a legally unjustified result: publicity for its illegal service and prolonging its ability to offer its users a circumvention device to illegally rip downloads of record companies’ valuable copyrighted works”.

“As long as this lawsuit (and now the appeal) are pending, Yout believes it can continue to enable circumvention and infringement of RIAA’s members’ valuable copyrights, including by consumers who may otherwise purchase the copyrighted sound recordings or listen to a licensed copy on an ad- or subscription-supported streaming service”, it goes on. “Adding to this potentially irreparable harm, Yout continues to force RIAA to incur significant expense to defend this suit”.

With all that in mind, “RIAA seeks an attorneys’ fee award of $250,000, plus additional amounts spent on this motion. This request for attorneys’ fees is conservative, both as a matter of attorney rates and the time requested, and is much lower than the amount that would be calculated using a traditional lodestar analysis and lower than the amount of fees actually paid”.

It then concludes: “RIAA tried numerous times to reach out to counsel for Yout to discuss resolution of this motion and matter, but Yout’s counsel responded that he no longer represents Yout and has since filed a notice of appeal. Meanwhile, Yout has continued to offer its circumvention technology. RIAA respectfully requests that the court grant its motion for attorneys’ fees”.

We await to see how the judge responds.