Does YouTube apply a different copyright policy to content pirates associated with powerful media companies? That is one of the main allegations made by Alex Edson, the CEO of the educational YouTube channel Business Casual, in a nearly two-hour-long video called “Why I’m Suing YouTube.”
The video explains the rationale Edson has used to file lawsuits against both YouTube and Russia Today (RT). Edson says that an RT representative admitted that the media company infringed on Business Casual’s copyrights on its Arabic-language channel. The RT suit has been allowed to move forward, but the YouTube suit has been dismissed without prejudice — though Edson vows to “fight again” in appeals court.
In his long address to the camera, Edson tells viewers about multiple instances in which RT copied sections of Business Casual’s videos (which tell stories from the history of economics) and repurposed them for Middle Eastern audiences on its RT Arabic channel. After multiple such thefts, Edson tried to get RT Arabic removed from YouTube. The platform stepped in as an intermediary between Edson and the state-owned outlet.
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That’s where things get hairy: Edson says that YouTube conspired with the Kremlin to keep RT’s channel around, even though representatives for the Russian company admitted that it did infringe on Business Casual’s copyrights. After learning that RT Arabic had been reinstated after a brief termination, Edson accused both RT and YouTube of infringing his channel’s copyrights, and he filed suits against both companies. He claimed that YouTube bears responsibility for RT Arabic’s DMCA violations because those infringements continued after the channel should have been terminated.
Judge John G. Koetl had his own sentiments. YouTube is not liable for infringing material so long as it responds to claims in a timely manner. Koetl dismissed the case against YouTube because the Google-owned company “actively and diligently policed allegedly infringing activity on its platform.” The dismissal was handed down without prejudice, and Judge Koetl granted Business Casual a motion to amend its complaint. The company’s latest legal filing can be found here.
The RT case can move forward, though any claims of lost revenue will be tough to prove, since RT transformed Business Casual’s English-language content into Arabic. That said, it doesn’t seem like Edson is after money here; his primary targets are YouTube’s copyright enforcement system and its “safe harbor” protections. Edson believes that “YouTube knowingly profits from copyright infringement,” and in hopes of changing the site’s policies, he is taking legal action while also appealing to common viewers.
“Under YouTube’s policy, the burden of proof has shifted,” Edson says in the video. “The burden of proof now lies on Business Casual to spend millions of dollars and years in litigation to adjudicate what everyone can clearly see is an obvious repeat infringer.”
Clearly, Edson is interested in the court of public opinion, not just the court of law. In an era when multiple lawsuits are arguing that YouTube’s copyright policy creates an environment in which content thieves can easily prosper, Business Casual’s CEO is trying to convince viewers that a big change is needed to keep the pirates at bay.
Though his legal results have been a mixed bag thus far, Edson has definitely succeeded in drawing attention to his cause. I first saw his video after it reached the top of Reddit’s /r/videos forum. Since then, Edson has argued that YouTube “shadowbanned” his long-form video by preventing it from appearing in recommendations.
Tubefilter has reached out to YouTube for comment and will update this post with any response from the company.