Premier League soccer sues YouTube over copyright

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Plaintiffs including English soccer’s Premier League sued Google Inc.’s YouTube on Friday for copyright infringement, the second such legal challenge to the popular video site in two months.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo salutes the fans after their FA Cup semi-final soccer match against Watford at Villa Park in Birmingham April 14, 2007. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Football Association Premier League Ltd., better known as the English Premier League, and music publisher Bourne Co. sued YouTube.

The lawsuit charges that YouTube deliberately encourages massive copyright infringement on its Web site to generate public attention and boost traffic. This has resulted in the loss of valuable content, the complaint said.

“Defendants, which own and operate the Web site, have knowingly misappropriated and exploited this valuable property for their own gain without payment or license to the owners of the intellectual property,” the lawsuit said.

Google general counsel Kent Walker replied in a statement:

“These suits simply misunderstand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which balances the rights of copyright holders against the need to protect Internet communications and content, Walker said, referring to the 1998 U.S. law governing the rights of content owners and Internet service providers.

“They threaten the way people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression over the Internet,” he said.

The complaint echoes accusations made in March by media conglomerate Viacom Inc., which filed a similar suit against YouTube and Google for over $1 billion in damages.

Google has denied those claims using similar arguments.

Lawyers for the Premier League said YouTube provided access to a tool against copyright infringement, but charged that it was “fraught” with problems and that YouTube should do more.

“Its account has on some occasions been blocked or closed,” the lawsuit said. “In the meantime, the Premier League has been forced to send time-consuming and ineffectual notices of infringement to YouTube.”


James McQuivey, a media analyst at Forrester, said the latest complaint was interesting because the plaintiffs had tried to use the tool provided to prevent copyright infringement.

But the lawsuit does not likely signal a wider move in the media industry against YouTube, McQuivey said.

More worrying for Google and YouTube would have been a lawsuit from a second major entertainment company or a big cable television network, he added.

The latest lawsuit seeks a court-ordered injunction to prohibit the defendants from continuing to violate various copyright protection laws and unspecified monetary damages.

It accuses YouTube of deliberately facilitating copyright infringement to build traffic to its site and lists a number of matches between some of English soccer’s most popular teams, including Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham.

The complaint, which seeks class-action status, also says that Google was aware of this pattern of infringement when it paid $1.65 billion to buy YouTube and subsequently saw an increase of around $4 billion in Google’s market value.

The suit argues that these billions of dollars still “vastly understates” the value of the plaintiff’s intellectual property and the harm to plaintiffs represented in the suit.

A copy of the complaint can be viewed at

The Premier League and Bourne have retained U.S. law firm, Proskauer Rose LLP, known for representing media companies, music stars and sports teams, and class-action firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP.

Google shares closed down $2.11 at $471.12 on Nasdaq.