German Composer The Latest To Mistakenly Sue Google Over The Actions Of Others

from the who-knew-assigning-liability-was-so-confusing dept

The one good part of the DMCA are the safe harbors that help people recognize that you should be suing the party that actually did something wrong, rather than the company that made the tools they used. Unfortunately, even with these protections some people still sue the tools/service provider in the middle. Outside the US, it's even more complicated -- without the safe harbor provision, common sense seems to go out the window and you get people suing the service provider for no good reason, except perhaps jealousy. The latest such case involves German composer Frank Peterson, who is suing Google because others uploaded some of his music to YouTube. And, rather than come up with a way to capitalize on it, like so many others, he feels the need to sue. He's claiming millions in "damages" though he wants to force Google to open its books so he can determine the full extent of these imaginary damages. The article also quotes another publisher who makes this odd statement:
Some producers requested to make cover versions of our songs, but refrained to do so after realizing how many videos of the songs already existed for free on YouTube.
Really? It's difficult to believe this is true. The fact that there were videos of a particular song on YouTube would make others not want to cover that song? By what logic?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 10:57am

    "The fact that there were videos of a particular song on YouTube would make others not want to cover that song? By what logic?"
    Since when did these things have to be logical ?. In any case the logic is obvious but not necessarily grounded in a full grasp of reality - pretty much like a lot of the Masnick's views.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    Re:

    Get back under a bridge.

     

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  3.  
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    Tgeigs, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 11:21am

    Psychological reason

    I would guess that part of the reason you see suits go against the Google's of the world is based on lawyer's correct perception that it is far more favorable in the general press to sue a large(ish) company as opposed to an individual.

    I mean, isn't there a psychological difference in reaction to BMG v. Google as opposed to BMG v. Tiffany Virtue (sarcastic name added for effect)?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 11:33am

    Rule 1

    Rule 1 in any lawsuit: Sue the guy with the deep pockets.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 11:41am

    I feel like I just read a story about people winning against the creators of tools ... oh yeah the pirate bay.

     

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  6.  
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    mike42 (profile), Apr 17th, 2009 @ 11:42am

    Obvious

    The reason they would not cover the song, is that making a hit using that song would make more money for the others who had already covered the song. And-since this is a zero sum game-that would be money that this artist would NOT get.

    It's really quite simple. Flawed, completely wrong, but simple.

     

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  7.  
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    AC's long lost brother, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 11:51am

    Re:

    Well, MY logic says if they decided not to cover them after seeing videos on you tube, either the songs suck, or they were worried about OVEREXPOSURE, which is of course, very bad for a song writer...

     

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  8.  
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    Ryan, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Re:

    I doubt very many songwriters are cowering in fear of overexposure. And besides, these are just artists looking to do a cover version. If they decide not to do one...then they don't ever get any coverage.

    And as for sharing the pie...the videos on YouTube aren't necessarily cover versions, they're likely just user videos. I don't see many ways you could come to determine that these other videos would make money off the popularity you created with your cover, even assuming that it was a zero sum game.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 12:31pm

    TPB

    WHERE IS THE TPB DISCUSSION? I CAN'T WAIT TO POST MY COMMENT ON THAT ONE :-)

     

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  10.  
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    Ryan, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    Re: TPB

    I can wait to read it...

     

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  11.  
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    David, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    Maybe...

    The funny thing is there was an article a few days ago saying that YouTube is losing money at the rate of about 2.4 million per day... Maybe they should ask this guy to contribute :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 12:49pm

    Assuming the court system he's going to be involved with works like the U.S. court system, he's going to have to present evidence of damages. The fact that he wants millions doesn't mean he's going to get them.

    If we can believe this guy, Google and YouTube have streamed this guy's content millions and millions of times. That's a lot. The thing that will make it hard to determine a reasonable damage figure is that Google was probably hemorrhaging money to do so. If we can believe recent reports, YouTube only exists because Google subsidizes it with tremendous amounts of money siphoned off the profitable parts of the business (mostly search ads). So he can't even demand a percentage of what Google made by giving away his video - they didn't make anything, they probably lost a lot of money.

    An analogous phenomenon is the wonderful legal and economic gray area of predatory pricing. It's conceivable that Wal-Mart, with the windfall profits from their junk-selling business, could subsidize giving away free hamburgers, or maybe selling them for a trivial cost like a nickel. This would probably put the hurt on McDonalds in a big way. Sure, it might not be sustainable forever, but I bet Wal-Mart could do it for long enough to close up a few fast food shops, maybe even entire fast food chains.

    In some countries, this would be illegal. In some places, it would probably be illegal, but by the time the case went to trial the fast food chains would be out of business, so it's a moot point anyway. Either way the fast food chain would have a hell of a time coming up with a damages figure. How do you count lost sales of hamburgers? You can't look at how many hamburgers Wal-Mart sold for a nickel or gave away, because those people might not have bought a McDonalds burger anyway. You can't count a decrease in sales, because maybe people were just going to In-n-Out instead, or maybe it's the bad economy causing people to cut back.

    Adapt or die?

     

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  13.  
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    RD, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

    Yeah.

    By what logic? Why, by the recent ruling in the TPB case. You see, you cant have it both ways. A search engine is either infringing when it provides LINKS to material (but not hosting it) or its not. Cant play both sides. If the TPB case holds up, it will be open season on google and everyone, since it will establish that LINKING IS THE SAME AS PROVIDING THE CONTENT. I cant wait add my own lawsuit and make serious bank.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Yeah.

    "By what logic? Why, by the recent ruling in the TPB case."

    Which was in a tiny country, relatively speaking. Which doesn't set precedent for the rest of the world. Which might be overturned on appeal even there. Which might be clarified or changed by future lawmakers.

    "You see, you cant have it both ways."

    But of course you can. You just love false dichotomies because they're easy. The real legal world is so much more nuanced. You haven't even read the ruling in this case (you likely can't; it's probably not even in English). It will likely come down to a matter of degree or intent.

    "A search engine is either infringing when it provides LINKS to material (but not hosting it) or its not."

    Yes, but what's great about the legal system is that it costs a lot of time and money to sue someone for infringement. So much so that it's not worth it except in the most egregious of cases. Like, say, the Pirate Bay. If it were easy, individual infringers would be sued right and left. But we know that's not happening. In order for there to be a problem, you not only have to infringe, but you have to infringe so badly that somebody cares enough to waste millions of dollars and years of people's time proving it. Oh, sure, sometimes they'll do it just to try to set an example, but that's a rare exception.

    "f the TPB case holds up, it will be open season on google and everyone, since it will establish that LINKING IS THE SAME AS PROVIDING THE CONTENT."

    No it won't, because who is going to risk terrific amounts of money suing "google and everyone" when Google's infringement is minor and incidental at best. I guess this composer guy will, because he's got a lot of spare time and money, but again he's an outlier. There are a few possible outcomes I can think of here. Unlikely: maybe the judge goes Gonzo and he wins big, and Google then gets the verdict or damages reversed or reduced on appeal, and lobbies the government to change the law so it doesn't happen again. Unlikely: he actually pursues this all the way to trial and loses, or wins a fraction of the money he spent litigating the case and loses hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Very likely: maybe Google pays him a little just to go away through a settlement.

    "I cant wait add my own lawsuit and make serious bank."

    You go for it. Hope you have a million bucks cash and several years. Maybe you can make a couple thou in a settlement. Maybe you'll lose your shirt.

     

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  15.  
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    Travis, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 8:38am

    "You can't look at how many hamburgers Wal-Mart sold for a nickel or gave away, because those people might not have bought a McDonalds burger anyway."

    Sure you can! Just like you can look at the number of songs/software copied to count damages.

     

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