YouTube has landed a major legal victory after defeating a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by movie tycoon Carlos Vasallo. According to a Florida federal court, Google’s video platform complies with the DMCA and has no legal obligation to use its piracy filtering tools to remove all potentially pirated videos.
The actor and producer owns the rights to the world’s largest collection of Mexican and Latin American movies, many of which are illegally shared on YouTube.
The lawsuit accused YouTube of not doing enough to stop people from uploading pirated copies of Vasallo’s content. Those allegations aren’t new, but the movie tycoon also said that YouTube would not allow him to join the Content ID copyright protection program unless he agreed to specific terms, including a revenue share agreement.
Vasallo refused these terms and chose to send standard DMCA notices instead. YouTube processed them, as it should, but the movie tycoon complained that this did little to stop pirates. New copies were constantly uploaded and banned users reportedly returned under new aliases.
Motions of Summary Judgment
YouTube and Google vehemently disagreed with the copyright infringement allegations and filed a motion to dismiss. This was partially successful as the Florida federal court dropped the antitrust claims, but the infringement allegations remained.
As the case progressed, both parties submitted motions for summary judgment, which were filed under seal.
The movie tycoon claimed that since YouTube only took down reported videos but failed to use its piracy filtering technology to find and voluntarily remove similar videos, the platform could be held liable for direct and secondary copyright infringement.
YouTube also submitted a motion for summary judgment to establish that it does nothing wrong. According to the company, the DMCA doesn’t require platforms to proactively monitor uploads. Also, the movie tycoon failed to provide any evidence that YouTube was aware of ‘non reported’ infringing videos.
Both motions for summary judgment eventually landed on the desk of Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres. In a detailed report and recommendations, the Judge sided with YouTube concluding that, since the movie tycoon has no triable case, the lawsuit should be closed.
YouTube Defeats Piracy Accusations
This week, U.S. District Court Judge Darrin Gayles issued a final order in the case. After reviewing all available evidence, including the movie tycoon’s objections to the report and recommendations, the Judge decided to grant YouTube’s motion for summary judgment.
“The Court agrees with Judge Torres’ well-reasoned analysis and conclusion that Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment be denied, and Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment be granted,” Judge Gayles writes.
The final judgment is an important win for YouTube. It essentially confirms that the processes and policies used by the company are in accordance with the law.
Under the DMCA, platforms such as YouTube are required to respond to takedown requests. In this case, there is little doubt that the video platform did just that. However, the movie tycoon argued that it should have used its piracy filtering technology to proactively find similar videos and remove those as well.
The court, however, concluded that YouTube is not required to do so. The DMCA makes it clear that online platforms have to respond to takedown notices, but piracy filters are not mandatory.
Protected by the DMCA’s Safe Harbor
No matter how the movie tycoon presented his case, he eventually ran “headlong against a brick wall erected by the DMCA,” Judge Torres wrote in his recommendations. The DMCA simply doesn’t require YouTube to remove content that isn’t specifically identified.
In addition, the court found no evidence that YouTube or its employees were aware of any non-reported infringing activity. Neither does anything suggest that YouTube could control the infringing activity it wasn’t aware of, or that it specifically profited from the alleged infringements.
District Court Judge Gayles agrees with these conclusions. By granting YouTube and Google’s motion for summary judgment, the court establishes that the video platform is protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor. At the same time, the movie tycoon’s motion for summary judgment is denied.
This is a key victory for YouTube. Not only does it confirm that YouTube acts completely in accordance with the law, but it also saves the company from potential statutory damages that could add up to more than $100 million.
A copy of U.S. District Court Judge Darrin Gayles’ order, adopting the report and recommendation issued by Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres, is available here (pdf)