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YouTube says rights management firm that sued over Content ID access doesn’t really exist

By | Published on Wednesday 24 February 2021


YouTube has filed new documents in its ongoing legal dispute with musician Maria Schneider and rights management company Pirate Monitor. In the latest filing, the Google company argues that Pirate Monitor is actually a front for film director Gábor Csupó, while also criticising the firm for failing to comply with its discovery requests.

This lawsuit centres on who has access to YouTube’s Content ID rights management system. Schneider and Pirate Monitor argue that YouTube is too selective in who it grants Content ID access to. Anyone who doesn’t qualify for access – which includes most independent creators – must manually monitor the video site for unlicensed uses of their content and then manually issue takedown requests. And whereas Content ID is a sophisticated takedown system, it’s alleged, YouTube’s processes for dealing with manual takedowns are not fit for purpose.

In its response to the litigation last September, YouTube argued that independent creators can access Content ID via distribution partners, and that Schneider has done exactly that. Meanwhile, it said, it has to be careful who has direct Content ID access because of the control it gives users over other people’s videos. Some companies cannot be trusted with that power, it added, and Pirate Monitor itself is proof of that.

The core allegation against Pirate Monitor is that – in a bid to prove that it was sufficiently prolific to deserve Content ID access – it uploaded a load of videos of its own content to various unofficial YouTube channels it had set up, and then issued takedowns against those channels. But that means it either infringed YouTube terms when uploading the videos – by incorrectly claiming it had the rights to do so – or breached copyright rules by issuing the takedowns – by incorrectly claiming the videos contained unlicensed content.

YouTube says that Pirate Monitor is refusing to cooperate with its discovery requests as part of this lawsuit because – it suspects – doing so would prove the company’s dodgy conduct. But even without Pirate Monitor’s cooperation, it argues, it has plenty of evidence to prove that the rights management firm uploaded its own content, and then objected to those uploads, in a bid to qualify for Content ID access.

Not only that, the latest legal filing goes on, it also has proof that Pirate Monitor isn’t even really a rights management company. Instead, it was an entity set up by Csupó in a bid to get access to Content ID and to then sue YouTube.

“Counterclaim defendant Gábor Csupó is an individual, a Hungarian film director and a resident of California”, the lawsuit states. “Csupó is the managing director, sole stockholder, sole decision maker, and alter ego of Pirate Monitor Ltd. From what YouTube has been able to piece together, given Pirate Monitor Ltd’s refusal to provide any discovery, Pirate Monitor Ltd has no principals or employees other than Csupó. It is inadequately capitalised, disregards corporate formalities, and commingles funds and other assets with Csupó”.

“Csupó dominates and controls Pirate Monitor Ltd to such an extent that it has no separate corporate personality”, it adds. “So thorough is Csupó’s dominance of Pirate Monitor Ltd that, if the actions of Pirate Monitor Ltd alleged herein were treated as those of Pirate Monitor Ltd alone, and not those of Csupó, it would lead to an inequitable result”.

“Csupó created Pirate Monitor Ltd after his personal liability for the acts alleged herein first arose”, it goes on, “and his misuse of the corporate form is continuing. As a result, Csupó is responsible, and personally liable for, not only his own actions, but the acts of Pirate Monitor Ltd as well”.

Of course Csupó – a successful animator and film-maker whose production company Klasky Csupó produced shows like’Rugrats’, ‘Duckman’ and ‘Stressed Eric’, and was involved in the early days of ‘The Simpsons’ – might argue that he should have access to Content ID in his own right. And this case is basically about what access independent creators should have to Content ID type technologies.

However, YouTube claims, by seeking access to Content ID and then pursuing litigation via a company that doesn’t really exist – and by employing devious tactics in a bid to claim copyright infringement that hadn’t actually occurred – the director acted in bad faith. In doing so, he kind of proves while the Google company should have strict rules over who gets privileged access to its rights management systems.

It will be interesting to see how Csupó or Pirate Monitor – which, according to YouTube, is basically the same thing – now respond.