Judge Dismisses Some Claims Against YouTube

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A federal judge dismissed certain claims for damages in a class-action suit brought against YouTube and Google by group of sports leagues and music publishers, including Britain's Premier League, but allowed infringement claims regarding live TV broadcasts to stand.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in an order issued July 3, dismissed the plaintiffs' claims for statutory damages with respect to "all foreign works which were not registered in the United States" except those under a live-broadcast exemption.

Copyright law bars statutory damages for unregistered works, with the exception of live broadcasts of "sporting events, concerts, theatrical presentations and news and public affairs programs" if the copyright owner notifies the prospective infringer at least 48 hours before the work is transmitted, District Judge Louis Stanton wrote in a 14-page decision.

Judge Stanton suggested the plaintiffs, which accused YouTube of hosting unauthorized copies of concerts and sports broadcasts, could amend their complaint to show they meet the live-broadcast standard. For example, he noted, a Premier League official testified that it had sent more than 344 "advance notices of potential infringement" to YouTube between September 2008 and June 2009 within 48 hours.

The court dismissed the plaintiffs' request for punitive damages. "There is no circumstance in which punitive damages are available under the Copyright Act of 1976," Stanton wrote.

Google litigation counsel Adam Barea said in a statement, "The plaintiff's damages claims, like the lawsuit itself, are baseless. We are pleased with the court's decision and will continue to vigorously defend the case."

The plaintiffs in the case include the Premier League, Fédération Française de Tennis, the National Music Publishers' Association, Cherry Lane Music Publishing, the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, Stage Three Music and Music Force Media Group.

In a related case, Viacom in 2007 sued YouTube and Google, asking for at least $1 billion in damages for what the media company said was "massive, intentional" copyright infringement. Viacom's suit was combined with the Premier League case for the discovery phase.

A copy of Judge Stanton's ruling is available here: http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2007cv03582/305574/133/0.pdf

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