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Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against YouTube Seeks to Identify All Copyright Infringers Since 2015

Grammy award-winning composer Maria Schneider filed a class-action lawsuit against YouTube last summer for allegedly failing to deal with copyright infringers on the platform

Schneider, who has won seven Grammy Awards, says YouTube’s system for policing copyright infringement protects record labels and large production companies, but excludes small content producers. According to the complaint, YouTube restricts access to its takedown tools, profits from infringement, and fails to ban ❌ repeat offenders. 

In a new filing, Schneider is demanding YouTube hand over data relating to copyright infringement on the platform. She wants to identify all users who have received a takedown notice against their account since 2015 to determine whether YouTube’s repeat infringer policies actually do anything. She claims YouTube has massive deficiencies in its copyright enforcement measures. 

Here’s everything we know about Schneider’s lawsuit and why her legal team is seeking information about content pirates 🏴‍☠️ on YouTube. 

How YouTube Handles Copyright Infringement 

YouTube uses a digital tool called Content ID to catch unauthorized use of copyrighted material. Copyright owners can use Content ID to identify and manage their content on the platform. All video uploads are scanned against a database of files that have been submitted by content owners. When a match is found, the video gets a copyright claim. 

Large rights-holders can use Content ID to settle disputes by either automatically blocking copyrighted content or monetizing it 💰 to generate revenue. According to Schneider’s lawsuit, these options aren’t available to smaller artists. The complaint also argues that the Content ID system doesn’t actually do anything meaningful to stop repeat content pirates.

Since Google claims 98% of YouTube copyright problems are resolved with Content ID, Schneider says the platform has “entirely insulated” a huge number of users from its repeat infringer policy. The policy states that users will be banned when they get three active strikes in a 90-day period, but Schneider’s team claims YouTube doesn’t do that because it profits 📈 from the infringed content. 

“Infringement caught by Content ID is excluded entirely. [YoutTube’s] failure to assess penalties, including copyright strikes and termination for those repeat infringers: (I) fails to satisfy the reasonableness requirement to track and terminate repeat infringers as required for the safe harbors; (ii) encourages and incentivizes users to continue posting infringing content; and (iii) creates constructive (if not actual) knowledge of infringement that is an independent basis to deny access to the DMCA safe harbors,” the filing reads

Content ID Does Not Stop Repeat Infringers

To prove that YouTube’s approach to copyright enforcement is lacking, Schneider’s legal team is demanding that the platform hands over information about infringement on the platform, including what type of actions carried out under Content ID. 

They want to show that YouTube is negligent since incidents of infringement that are dealt with using Content ID don’t result in action against the offending accounts. Schneider is demanding the platform hand over large amounts of data to show the scale of infringement and YouTube’s alleged failure to deal with repeat offenders. 

YouTube rejected the request. It agreed to hand over information tied to notices filed by Schneider and said anything beyond that would be a huge burden ⛰️ in terms of scope. 

Schneider’s camp narrowed its demands and now wants YouTube to identify EVERY person that has filed a copyright takedown notice since January 1, 2015. The requested information should include dates, the works allegedly infringed, and the URL of the targeted content. She also wants the details of EVERY uploader targeted by these takedown notices, including their account names, email addresses, and IP addresses. 

She additionally demands a full accounting by YouTube detailing all steps taken to resolve every takedown notice. This should include the outcomes in each case and whether the platform holds on to copies 💽 of works that are taken down for infringement. 

YouTube Refuses to Comply

YouTube has reportedly refused to comply with Schneider’s demands. According to last week’s filing, the platform is only prepared to hand over a month’s worth of takedown notices. It called the demands “unduly burdensome” and “overly broad” over two dozen times in its response. 

Schneider’s team said that isn’t a meaningful compromise. Whether the judge will agree with YouTube or Schneider remains to be seen. 👀

Piracy liability is a sensitive problem. Back in 2019, internet service provider Cox Communications was sued by 53 music companies, including Sony Music, Warner Bros, and Capitol Records for failing to terminate repeat copyright infringers. The suit claimed Cox substantially profited from the piracy at the expense of the record labels. Cox was ordered to pay $1 billion 💵 in damages after a federal jury ruled that it was responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers.

Schneider and YouTube’s case still has a long way to go. The outcome will likely have an interesting impact on how the platform handles cases of copyright infringement. If you’re a content creator who is trying to avoid copyright strikes on YouTube, check out our guide on how to do that