The FA Premier League has accused YouTube and its owner Google of running a “protection racket” for its handling of copyright infringement on the file-sharing website.
The Premier League, along with a variety of music publishing and entertainment rights companies, has submitted a re-amended version of its complaint against YouTube to US District Court in New York alleging that the defendants continue to “feign blindness” to copyright abuse. It says they continue to ignore the problem despite evidence that they are able to identify and remove such content.
The action says that new ways of accessing YouTube, such as through the Apple iPhone and other mobile devices, is exacerbating the problem, and it calls for the period of liability be extended back to April 2005 – seven months before YouTube’s official launch in December that year. Google acquired the site for $1.65bn in October 2006 (equivalent to £833m at the time).
The strongly worded document says that the defendants have “pursued and are continuing to pursue a deliberate strategy of engaging in, permitting, encouraging and facilitating massive copyright infringement” resulting in increased traffic and ad revenues.
The class action says that recent initiatives, such as YouTube’s deals with commercial partners, confirm that the defendants can identify and remove material, as long as the “victims” agree to pay. “In a twenty-first century embodiment of an age-old scheme, defendants have agreed to provide ‘protection’ against their own infringing conduct through a series of ‘partnership’ agreements with various copyright owners.”
A first complaint was filed in May 2007 but Google and YouTube dismissed many of the claims in a response the following December.
Google introduced technology aiming to prevent illegal use of copyrighted material on its YouTube video-sharing site in October last year, but the claimants maintain it “deliberately” refrains from implementing “readily available” technical solutions to prevent infringement.
MTV owner Viacom launched the first legal action against YouTube in March last year. The case is ongoing.