Safe Harbors Save YouTube
Recently, a YouTuber – Chris Brady (not related to the Bunch) – allegedly used his YouTube page and the protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to extort money out of fellow subscribers. YouTube found out and indicated that it will not stand for this abuse of its platform or its subscribers. YouTube is now suing Mr. Brady for injunctive relief and to prevent future irreparable harm. For the complete complaint, please go here – but for an overview and some interesting points keep reading!
What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?
As the internet first began popping up and growing – even before the new millennium – President Bill Clinton signed into law the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998. This legislation fused two international treaties (WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty) with new laws in an effort to deal with significant copyright issues. Feel free to read about the DMCA in its entirety here, but for today’s blog we are only focusing on Title II – Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act. This section deals specifically with YouTube’s current predicament. This section provides four safe harbors for online service providers to protect them against monetary damages for copyright infringement. Each safe harbor has specific requirements.
Title II in More Detail
Again, Title II is just one section of the act and provides these protections for online service providers, as long as they are following the requirements of each harbor. The first safe harbor deals with the transitory digital network communications – WHAT? It’s actually not as scary as it sounds, it just means the internet provider must merely be a channel for the messages being sent to its users and doesn’t actually create and store the copyrighted materials. Next topic addressed is system caching – this is simply saying that the internet service provider is not uploading the material itself – a user is – and the provider is using an automated technical process to make the material available to users.
Now the third safe harbor is the one most often discussed when talking about this act – this addresses information residing on systems of networks at the discretion of users. In layman’s terms -the service provider cannot be aware that the material is infringing, is not receiving any type of money to host the infringing material (because then they would be in control of it), and once the service provider is made aware of the infringing material they immediately remove it from their platform.
The final safe harbor addresses information location tools and basically states that service providers that link users to other sites or directories are not liable for those sites’ infringements.
There is an overarching rule under this title that the internet service providers must remove any repeat infringers – which leads us to YouTube’s current lawsuit.
What’s Going on with YouTube?
Well, as many know, YouTube is one of the largest – if not the largest – online service providers of a platform for users to create and upload videos to get views. As stated above, as long as the service provider meets the DMCA safe harbors, it will be protected. Well, YouTube certainly does that, but what happens when you follow the rules too well… YouTuber Christopher Brady took advantage of that.
So, here’s what happened. When YouTube receives a complaint of copyright infringing material on a page, it immediately removes it. YouTube then issues a strike to the user and if the user who had the infringing material on his/her page gets three strikes then – you guessed it – they’re out. Their pages and all content on the page are deleted. A popular genre of YouTube videos is called streaming – e.g. where a person plays a certain level of a video game and transmits it over a computer network to share with other players. Christopher Brady started reporting some of these pages – specifically in the game of Minecraft – as infringing on his copyright knowing that YouTube would then take it down. After each reporting, he would then message the YouTuber telling them that they must pay him a certain amount of money – or bitcoin – otherwise he will report them again and they will receive their possible third strike and lose everything. This would be a perfectly acceptable thing to do if he in fact owned any copyright in what he was reporting. HE DIDN’T – he was lying to try and ruin competitors (at least that is one theory). Additionally, in some of the messages he sent, he didn’t reveal his identity and the message may have been an attempt to make other users believe he was YouTube (again, another theory).
Now YouTube indicated that it was not aware of what was going on until one user created a video specifically detailing what Christopher Brady had been doing. Once this extortion came to YouTube’s attention, it immediately began investigating. Well investigations cost money, lots of money for something this size, so now YouTube is suing Christopher Brady for damages not only to the website and the users, but specifically for having to expend time and resources on the investigation. To read more details about the case check it out here.
For more information on protecting your copyright on YouTube, the DCMA or any other intellectual property needs, contact The Lomnitzer Law Firm at (561) 953-9300 or through our website form to schedule your free consultation.