Updated to include Google response. Two law firms are trying to set up a class action suit representing copyright owners, large and small, who contend their rights are infringed by YouTube and Google. The lead plaintiffs in the suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York: the Football Association Premier League Limited, better known as the English Premier League, and music publisher Bourne Co. Law firm Proskauer Rose LLP is known for representing media companies and sports teams, while Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP is a class-action firm, according to Reuters. The 39-page complaint is here (pdf). Release (pdf) .
Update: A quick primer for those who don’t often deal with class-action suits: filing doesn’t make it so. The lead plaintiffs and the firms are seeking court approval to group everyone who claims copyrighted content meeting certain terms has appeared on YouTube without their permission. The court has to grant class-action status for it to be treated that way. The firms have set up a web site, not uncommon for class-action cases, and a hot line. They are seeking an injunction and unspecified damages.
Viacom: Viacom was the first major media company to sue YouTube and Google, asking for $1 billion in damages. A request for a statement about this filing was met with the response that the class action suit speaks for itself.
BBC: “The commercial value of the Premier League has risen spectacularly in recent years, making protection of its rights a priority for the organization. The combined TV, radio and internet rights to show live games and highlights over the next three years fetched £2.7 billion in a series of auctions.”
The class action complaint claims:
– that Google and YouTube “have knowingly misappropriated and exploited” copyrighted intellectual property for their own profit.
– that the success of the plaintiffs is dependent upon protection of their property rights.
– that Google and YouTube’s success with the site relies on making it difficult to keep copyrighted material off.
– Google is sued both as a successor in interest to YouTube and as “an active participant, inducer, aider, and abettor.”
Much of the complaint mirrors Viacom’s filing but it doesn’t seem to take into effect any of Google’s statements or promises since then.
Premier League on YouTube: I’ve had some Premier League video from YouTube on in the background while I’m writing. The video comes from ESPN, BBC and others, usually international feeds. The league broadcasts in 204 countries. (So far, I haven’t heard my favorite club song, ManU’s version of “Blue Moon.”)
Update: Google just sent over a response from general counsel Kent Walker, which reads, in part: “These suits simply misunderstand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act … Most content owners understand that we respect copyrights, we work every day to help them manage their content, and we are developing state-of-the-art tools to let them do that even better.” The rest is similar to the argument in Google’s response to Viacom earlier this week.