Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

YouTube's Lawyers A Little Too Trigger Happy; Could Come Back To Bite Them

from the you-did-what-now? dept

Plenty of attention today on the fact that YouTube's lawyers decided to shoot off a cease and desist letter to Mike Arrington at Techcrunch, for putting up an easy to use tool that would let users download videos from YouTube and put them on their video iPods. Arrington (a former lawyer from the very firm that sent the C&D) goes through why he doesn't believe it's valid, noting that the site's own terms of service clearly say it's okay to download videos for personal use, so long as you retain the copyright info associated with the video. He also points out that anyone who uploads a video agrees to YouTube's terms, which includes granting all YouTube users "a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Website, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such User Submissions..." However, when you read the full cease-and-desist letter it gets even more interesting. First, YouTube's lawyers pull out the Grokster "inducement" standard, in claiming that the tool "induces" people to infringe on YouTube's user's copyrights. It makes sense, because that's about the only argument they'd have against the tool, since the tool (or its developer) aren't actually guilty of direct copyright infringement. However, that's extremely dangerous territory for YouTube to get into, because there are plenty (Hi, Mark Cuban), who believe that YouTube itself is guilty of "inducing" copyright infringement itself. The decision by YouTube's lawyers to stretch the definition of "inducement" could very well come back to bite them -- especially if whoever sues them points out that the company's own lawyers seem to have a very broad definition of the term themselves. Second, YouTube keeps wanting to claim a clear separation between themselves and the actual copyright of the videos that are being uploaded for very sound legal reasons. Yet, here, they're suddenly sending their lawyers out, not to protect their own copyright, but the copyright of the uploaded videos. That seems to be suggesting that they really do have a closer connection to the legal status of the videos than they'd like to claim to remain untouched by the legal liability.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Joshua, Nov 15th, 2006 @ 10:39am

    Just a mistake

    It really appears that someone at youtube was rushing off without checking in with the whole team first. You can bet someone at YouTube is in trouble for sicking lawyers on techcrunch. Mike is pretty diplomatic about it as well, which leads me to believe that he also things YouTube top management wouldn't have known about this and is cutting them some slack to see what comes from it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Kevin, Nov 15th, 2006 @ 11:37am

    Perhaps I am reading this wrong, but IMO they are using the "inducement" reasoning to mask the real reason they don't like this: it takes away from the social/page views of viewing the video in their own player on their site. And each page view has advertisements, which is their major source of revenue.

    Although on the flipside, wouldn't they welcome a reduced bandwidth bill?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anthony, Nov 15th, 2006 @ 11:52am

    Don't forget. It's not YouTube but Google who is doing this. hmm wonder why??? They make a living pilfering information of other peoples containt

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Rob Hyndman, Nov 15th, 2006 @ 12:12pm

    Me not get

    Hmmm. They've built their business on syndication so they can't be miffed at a tool that allows viewing off-site, unless what they're fussed about is anything that makes it harder for them to track # of views.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    wire cramped, Nov 15th, 2006 @ 2:31pm

    Its in the numbers people

    As Rob H. said its because they wont be able to track view count. WHICH means they cant sell the advertisement space as well as they cant show how many people are viewing the particular web page and thus getting the ad at the top or side.

    This is purely the motive for making money on the whole site so lets not got into this too deep its all about the numbers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    moe, Nov 16th, 2006 @ 3:35am


    Google bought up YouTube, but they also gave them a fair amount of autonomy. The word "Google" doesn't even exist on the homepage. I don't know that you are wrong, because I'm not going to research exactly which entity (Google or YouTube) is behind it. But, I'm also not going to accept your claim that Google is behind it unless there is something to back it up.

    I can clearly see a situation in which YouTube is permitted to act autonomously in regards to legal issues, that doesn't involve Google. And I agree with Mike, this is just a stupid, stupid move by whomever is behind it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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