YouTube Tells Court to Reject Jazz Composer’s Copyright Class Action

Google and subsidiary YouTube moved for summary judgment in a case filed by composer Maria Schneider and several other copyright holders, arguing that Schneider’s copyright claims are foreclosed as a matter of law. Last week’s motion asserts that several defenses stand between Schneider and success including license and timeliness.

As previously reported, the complainants alleged that YouTube favors “powerful copyright owners,” such as major studios and recording companies, by granting them access to Content ID,  “a copyright management tool that allows owners to block uploads of infringing works, monetize infringement, and track viewership statistics of infringing works.”

Under the defendants’ two-tiered copyright enforcement system, however, ordinary owners are denied access, which reportedly makes it “impossible for them to police their copyrights, resulting in widespread piracy and infringement that they cannot meaningfully address.” Explaining YouTube’s purported motive, the complaint said that the platform deliberately limits access to content moderation tools to maximize its “focused but reckless drive for user volume and advertising revenue.” 

Searches on YouTube revealed that there were unauthorized reproductions of Schneider’s work, prompting her to bring claims for federal copyright infringement and improper removal of her copyright management information (CMI).

The suit, filed just over two years ago, survived YouTube’s dismissal bid in early August. Judge James Donato’s ruling upheld the copyright infringement claims. The court batted down YouTube’s contrary arguments, as the complaint provided sufficient notice of the infringed works, complied with the applicable pleading standard, and alleged scienter.

Now, YouTube argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on Schneider’s claims. The motion first contends that Schneider licensed use of her works to YouTube in 2008 through her publisher Modern Works Music Publishing (MWP), granting the platform the right to use her entire catalog of compositions. 

In addition, YouTube says that the composer and her agents agreed to its Terms of Service, thereby granting license to both the disputed works and anything they uploaded, while permitting YouTube the right to reformat and remove metadata from her works.

As to the plaintiff’s CMI removal claims, the online streaming platform also says Schneider cannot show that YouTube acted with intent or knowledge that removing CMI would foment infringement. Lastly, YouTube adds that Schneider’s cause of action accrued three years from when she knew about the infringement, which in the case of some works far predated the filing of the suit. 

A motion hearing is scheduled for mid-October.

The plaintiffs are represented by Boise Schiller Flexner LLP and Google and YouTube by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati P.C.