YouTube's no friend to copyright violators

Those who post copyright material should expect no protection from the video-sharing site if accused of infringement.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
2 min read
People posting copyright material on YouTube shouldn't be surprised if the company makes no effort to protect them in a copyright battle.

The video-sharing site may hand over information on those who post video clips of movies and TV shows if they're accused of copyright infringement, something perhaps not well known by those who do so.

Robert Tur, a Los Angeles-based journalist who recorded scenes of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, filed suit against YouTube in July after seeing numerous clips of his video on the site. In a letter to Tur, YouTube attorneys said he should instead go after the person who posted the video, according to Tur's attorney, Francis Pizzulli.

"Mr. Tur was advised that...he could file a lawsuit against the YouTube user," Pizzulli said. "Mr. Tur was informed that it was YouTube policy to provide copyright owners with user identification information (after receiving a valid subpoena)."

After receiving such a subpoena in another case last summer, YouTube turned over information belonging to Chris Moukarbel, who was being sued by Paramount Pictures for making a movie based on a script owned by the studio, according to a Friday story in MarketWatch.

A YouTube representative did not respond to an interview request from CNET News.com.

That YouTube will not cover up for accused lawbreakers shouldn't come as a surprise. The company has consistently said that it will obey the law and that it doesn't want copyright material on its site. That message is spelled out in YouTube's user agreement, as well as in a computer prompt that appears before a person uploads a clip.

The company also says it removes clips once notified of a copyright violation.

But YouTube owes much of its early fame to the unauthorized posting of movie and TV show clips.

YouTube first began attracting attention after clips from NBC TV's "Saturday Night Live," showed up on its site. Much was written about the show's appearance on YouTube and the subsequent demand by NBC that the clips be removed. Since then, slices of sporting events, news shows, feature films, soap operas and music videos have appeared on YouTube.

And the payoff came earlier this month. It was YouTube's 16 million monthly visitors that helped convince Google to pay $1.65 billion for the video-sharing site.

Since the sale, entertainment companies have begun making noise about their unwillingness to stand still while YouTube and others attract crowds with their properties. A group of Japanese media companies demanded Friday that YouTube remove more than 29,000 videos, and the company complied.

Universal Music Group said on Tuesday that it had filed lawsuits against video-sharing sites Grouper and Bolt.com for the alleged copyright violations on their sites. It remains unclear why Universal did not name YouTube in its suit.

YouTube has said it is working on new methods to help thwart copyright violations. The company has also said that it is not responsible for copyright violations; the users are.