YouTube says creators are 'hiding the ball' with copyright claims

YouTube app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
  • Group of copyright owners said YouTube only protects large companies
  • YouTube said purported class failed to state claims
  • Group allegedly didn't identify infringement, show copyright ownership

(Reuters) - YouTube says plaintiffs in a ructious lawsuit alleging the video platform failed to protect their copyrights are trying to "hide the ball" with their claims.

In urging a San Francisco federal court to toss the copyright lawsuit brought by a group of creators, YouTube said Monday that, among other things, the plaintiffs didn't specify "a single alleged infringement" in their complaint.

U.S. District Judge James Donato in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California chastised the parties in May for several letters he said indicated a "breakdown" in "civility and cooperation."

Grammy-winning composer and musician Maria Schneider sued YouTube last year on behalf of a proposed class of small copyright owners, arguing it only enforces the rights of large companies like major film studios and record labels while allowing pirated content from smaller content owners to help draw in users.

An amended version of the complaint last month said major companies have access to YouTube's advanced Content ID software to scan for and automatically block infringing content, while smaller creators are "deliberately left out in the cold."

YouTube said in a court filing last year that it goes "above and beyond" to protect users' copyrights.

On Monday, the company noted several issues that it said justified dismissing the new complaint.

YouTube said the plaintiffs haven't identified all of the works they're suing over and that they claimed the right to add new copyrights to the case "whenever they please," allegedly flouting a court order that was meant to end their "moving target" approach.

YouTube argued that Schneider and co-plaintiffs Uniglobe Entertainment and AST Publishing didn't show they owned some of the copyrights at issue. YouTube said other relevant copyrights weren't registered before the lawsuit was filed.

The motion said the plaintiffs didn't identify any specific instances of actual infringement.

"If Plaintiffs are not made to satisfy the basic pleading requirements for their claims, they will continue to bob and weave as they have for the past 18 months," YouTube said.

Schneider's attorneys Joshua Schiller and Philip Korologos of Boies Schiller Flexner and Randall Ewing of Korein Tillery didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, and neither did YouTube's parent company Google or attorney David Kramer of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, who is representing YouTube.

The case is Schneider v. YouTube LLC, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:20-cv-04423.

For the plaintiffs: Joshua Schiller and Philip Korologos of Boies Schiller Flexner, Randall Ewing of Korein Tillery

For YouTube: David Kramer of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com