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YouTube says it has a “smoking gun” to prove Pirate Monitor’s bad conduct in ongoing Content ID dispute

By | Published on Tuesday 22 December 2020


YouTube has provided information about an alleged “smoking gun” that it has uncovered in its legal battle with rights management company Pirate Monitor. It says that information it has found proves that Pirate Monitor acted in bad faith when issuing takedown notices against the Google video site. That in turn demonstrates why it did not deserve access to YouTube’s Content ID system.

Earlier this year Pirate Monitor teamed up with musician Maria Schneider to sue YouTube over its content takedown systems. Which is to say, the systems it is obliged to operate for the benefit of copyright owners in order to enjoy safe harbour protection from liability for any copyright-infringing content uploaded to and stored on its site.

YouTube, of course, has a pretty sophisticated takedown system in the form of Content ID. However, access to Content ID is only provided to larger content owners and distributors. Schneider and Pirate Monitor then argued that the manual takedown systems provided to those copyright owners denied access to Content ID are mediocre and not sufficient for the Google site to enjoy safe harbour protection.

In its response, YouTube argued that Schneider could access – and, indeed, had accessed – Content ID via a distributor. Meanwhile, it argued that Pirate Monitor was proof as to why YouTube had to be careful as to who it grants Content ID access, given that system allows users to block and monetise other people’s videos.

YouTube alleged that, in a bid to prove that it was a big enough concern to have Content ID access, Pirate Monitor had basically uploaded its own clients’ content to anonymous channels on the video site, and then issued manual takedown requests against those uploads.

Given that uploaders on YouTube sign up to terms and conditions that confirm that they own the rights in their videos, that would mean that Pirate Monitor was either breaching those terms with its uploads, or breaching US copyright law by issuing takedowns against videos that it knew didn’t infringe copyright.

In its response to those allegations last month, Pirate Monitor argued that YouTube had failed to demonstrate that it had any connection to the anonymous channels on which content it represents appeared and against which it had filed takedown notices. To that end, it urged the court to dismiss the counterclaims made by the Google video site in the ongoing case.

But wait a second, says YouTube in a new legal filing made on Friday, it can definitely demonstrate that connection. In the filing, YouTube explains why it first became suspicious about the Pirate Monitor takedowns. It says that it first noticed irregularities when a flurry of takedowns were issued against various short 30 second clips of obscure Hungarian movies. Those clips had been uploaded in bulk to similarly named YouTube channels via IP addresses in Pakistan.

“That alone was suspicious”, YouTube writes in its filing. “There is no obvious reason why short clips from relatively unknown Hungarian-language movies should be uploaded to YouTube from accounts and devices in Pakistan. Further, numerous clips came from a series of accounts having similar user names – eg ‘RansomNova11’, ‘RansomNova12’ etc. And the uploads did not appear consistent with users actually seeking to share copies of the movies – among other things, there was no apparent order to the clips and the users supplied nondescript, non-informative titles for them”.

It then adds: “The timing of the takedown requests was even more suspicious. Pirate Monitor was sending takedown requests for the clips very soon after they had been uploaded, and in many cases, before the clips had even been viewed by anyone”.

Then comes the supposed “smoking gun”. YouTube says that, while the uploads came via an IP address in Pakistan, on one day in November the owner of one of the RansomNova channels suddenly logged in from an IP address in Hungary. The exact same IP address in Hungary, YouTube alleges, that had been used by Pirate Monitor to issue its takedown requests. Oh dear. That suggests, of course, that Pirate Monitor had been using a VPN to make it look like the sneaky uploads were occurring more than 2500 miles away from where the takedowns were being issued.

YouTube’s legal filing goes on: “After considerable digging, YouTube found a smoking gun. In November 2019, amidst a raft of takedown notices from Pirate Monitor, one of the ‘RansomNova’ users that had been uploading clips via IP addresses in Pakistan logged into their YouTube account from a computer connected to the internet via an IP address in Hungary. Pirate Monitor had been sending YouTube its takedown notices from a computer assigned that very same unique numeric address in Hungary”.

“Simply put, whoever RansomNova is, he or she was sharing Pirate Monitor’s computer and/or internet connection, and doing so at the same time Pirate Monitor was using the same computer and/or connection to send YouTube takedown notices”.

All in all, YouTube argues, it has provided plenty of evidence of a connection between Pirate Monitor and the channels that uploaded the rights management firm’s content, and therefore its counterclaims should definitely not be dismissed at this stage.

We now await Pirate Monitor’s response with interest. Presumably it will take care to not accidentally email that response from the IP address in Pakistan previously used by RansomNova.