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YouTuber fails in lawsuit over YouTube’s handling of copyright notices

By | Published on Friday 17 April 2020


A lawsuit filed by a YouTuber against YouTube over allegations that the Google company didn’t properly deal with his counterclaims to copyright notices filed against his content has been dismissed. Basically, the judge ruled that YouTube could deal with the plaintiff’s counterclaims any way it wanted under the video site’s terms of service.

DJ Short-E, real name Erik Mishiyev, sued YouTube last summer. His beef with the video site actually began over concerns that YouTube wasn’t alerting subscribers to his two channels when he posted new content. That, he reckoned, was affecting his overall viewing figures and therefore the ad income he was earning from his YouTube presence.

Mishiyev said that he first became aware of the apparent subscriber alert issue when one of his subscribers contacted him to say that they’d opted to receive notifications of his new content, but that no such alerts were coming through. He says he then contacted YouTube several times about the possible issue, but never got back a satisfactory reply.

Pissed off about all that, Mishiyev threatened to go legal. Shortly after that, he alleged, a flurry of copyright claims were logged against his videos. And whereas when that had happened in the past he’d successfully dealt with the copyright notices by filing counterclaims, this time that didn’t work and his channels were ultimately blocked.

Once that had happened, Mishiyev did go legal, although mainly over the copyright claims not the alert issue. His lawsuit, seeking $720,000 in damages, said that while YouTube said it had blocked his channels over copyright issues, it actually appeared to be acting “in retaliation for his placing them on notice that he would be filing a lawsuit” over the missing alerts.

It always seemed like a bit of an optimistic lawsuit, though had it gone the distance it could have sparked an interesting debate about the ethical obligations user-upload sites have to content creators, both in terms of distributing their videos and dealing with copyright complaints.

Though, of course, a court of law is more interested in the legal rather than ethical obligations. And it’s on those grounds that a judge has dismissed Mishiyev’s lawsuit. In a ruling published last month and spotted by Torrentfreak this week, judge William Alsup said that YouTube’s little read terms of service meant that Mishiyev didn’t have a case.

Yes, those terms of service said YouTubers could dispute copyright claims made against their channels, but, Alsup noted, “once a user submitted a counter-notice, the agreement reserved to YouTube’s sole discretion the decision to take any further action, including whether to restore the videos or even to send the counternotice to the purported copyright owner”.

“Thus”, he added, “YouTube did not agree to act as a neutral processor of notices and counter-notices. YouTube retained control to evaluate counter-notices and infringement on its own”.

YouTube therefore complied with its contractual commitments and Mishiyev didn’t have a case.