YouTube Finds a ‘Smoking Gun’ Against Pirate Monitor In Content ID Litigation

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In a new legal filing, YouTube indicated that it has found a “smoking gun” against Pirate Monitor, which levied a massive class action lawsuit against the Google-owned video-sharing platform in July.

Counsel for YouTube and Google recently submitted the “smoking gun” filing to a California federal court, arguing against Pirate Monitor’s motion to dismiss counterclaims. The underlying courtroom confrontation initiated back in July, when Grammy-winning jazz professional Maria Schneider and Pirate Monitor, a Virgin Islands-based entity that owns the copyrights to several Hungarian comedy films, sued YouTube/Google over alleged Content ID discrimination.

According to the plaintiffs, YouTube “protects only the most powerful copyright owners such as major studios and record labels” with Content ID, which enables “qualifying” rights holders to have users’ uploads scanned “against a database of files” consisting of original editions of protected media.

Then, Content ID participants can block infringing videos outright, monetize the clips, or simply track their viewership statistics. “Smaller rights holders,” the plaintiffs wrote, “are, however, denied access to Content ID” and must therefore search for infringed content manually and submit “individual takedown notices.”

“If a rights holder does not have the economic clout to qualify for Content ID,” the original complaint continued, “YouTube refuses to add their works to the Content ID catalog for prepublication protection even if those works have previously been infringed on YouTube hundreds or even thousands of times.”

In a new filing, YouTube refutes the allegations and claims that it found a “smoking gun” against Pirate Monitor, which allegedly “devised an elaborate scheme to prove itself sufficiently trustworthy to use YouTube’s advanced copyright management tools.”

After explaining Content ID’s basic purpose and reiterating that their team has invested “over $100 million” in the tool, YouTube/Google expands upon Pirate Monitor’s purported “elaborate scheme.” Per the legal text, Pirate Monitor applied to access Content ID, but was denied partially “because it had not established a track record of sending valid [DMCA] takedown requests.”

In an effort to “overcome that obstacle,” YouTube alleges that agents of Pirate Monitor between August and November of last year created over 12 accounts and used “bogus account information to conceal their connection to Pirate Monitor.” The same agents then allegedly uploaded “hundreds” of videos to YouTube through the accounts, including footage from “at least one” of the three films mentioned in the initial complaint.

Shortly thereafter, Pirate Monitor sent “hundreds” of DMCA takedown requests, the filing specifies, in “many instances” for the same videos that it had uploaded via the disguised accounts. (In total, the entity allegedly fired off almost 2,000 takedown notices.) YouTube processed the requests as usual, having “no idea that the party uploading the videos was the same as the party insisting that they be removed.”

The clips in question each spanned 30 seconds, for the most part, derived from “obscure Hungarian movies,” and were uploaded en masse by Pakistan-based accounts, according to their IP addresses. Moreover, the videos had “nondescript” and “non-informative” titles, came from similarly named accounts (including “RansomNova” followed by a number), and were often tagged with DMCA takedown notices before they “had even been viewed by anyone.”

Lastly, “considerable digging” allowed YouTube to find the aforementioned “smoking gun.” One of the users who had been uploading clips via a Pakistan IP address logged into their account from Hungary, based once again on the IP address. Pirate Monitor, for its part, “had been sending YouTube its takedown notices from a computer” with the exact same IP address as that which the purportedly Pakistani uploading account utilized.

“Simply put, whoever RansomNova is, he or she was sharing Pirate Monitor’s computer and/or Internet connection, and doing so at the same time Pirate Monitor was using the same computer and/or connection to send YouTube takedown notices,” finishes YouTube’s counsel.

Given this alleged scheme, YouTube maintains that Pirate Monitor violated its terms of service when creating the accounts and uploading the videos – or, alternatively, the DMCA itself, in terms of the law’s “prohibition on knowing misrepresentations” in takedown requests.

Earlier this month, a German court ruled that YouTube doesn’t have to share the emails, IP addresses, or phone numbers of infringing users.