A U.S. federal court has denied class-action status to copyright owners suing Google Inc. over the usage of material posted on YouTube. U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton, in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, rejected a motion to approve a worldwide class of copyright owners in a long-running lawsuit over videos and music uploaded on the popular website. In denying class certification Judge Stanton said that that copyright claims have only superficial similarities ruling
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"The suggestion that a class action of these dimensions can be managed with judicial resourcefulness is flattering, but unrealistic"
The proposed class action lawsuit was filed in 2007 and included as named plaintiffs the English Premier League, the French Tennis Federation, the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) and individual music publishers. The NMPA settled with Google in 2011.
In April this year Judge Stanton had dismissed the 2007 copyright infringement complaint by Viacom International and others against YouTube over the Google company's alleged unauthorized hosting on YouTube of clips uploaded by users from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", "SpongeBob SquarePants" and ""South Park" stating that YouTube was protected under the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Judge Stanton threw Viacom's case out on April 18th, a year after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the copyright infringement case. after his initial ruling in favour of YouTube. Viacom has filed a notice of appeal from Stanton's new ruling.
The current case would have allowed a proposed class which could have included any copyright owner whose allegedly infringed videos were on the popular web service, and music publishers whose compositions were allowed to be used on YouTube without proper permission. Judge Stanton said that while the legal analyses he would have had to apply in the case would have been similar for the various plaintiffs, each copyright owner's case would need to be decided based on facts particular to their individual claims commenting
"Generally speaking, copyright claims are poor candidates for class-action treatment" and the case would turn into a "mammoth proceeding", with potentially thousands of plaintiffs worldwide, and that
"Each claim presents particular factual issues of copyright ownership, infringement, fair use, and damages, among others” and
"Plaintiffs offer no explanation of how the worldwide members of this proposed class are to be identified, how they are to prove copyright ownership by themselves or by their authorized agent, or how they will establish that defendants became aware of the specific video clips which allegedly infringed each of the potentially tens of thousands of musical compositions incorporated into specific videos”
Citing the Viacom case, the Judge said that YouTube does not generate infringing material, had a take down system and unless an exception applies, the DMCA requires that YouTube have legal knowledge or awareness of the specific infringement to be liable for it.
Football Association Premier League Ltd et al v. YouTube Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 07-03582.
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