By: Spacelab Research Staff
We all knew this might happen at some point... somebody has gone ahead and sued YouTube for copyright infringement.
Robert Tur has filed suit in a federal district court in California against YouTube for some footage he shot of the Reginald Denny beating during the LA riots in 1992. He later sold the footage to various news media outlets, and when people took recordings of the news media's use and uploaded them to the YouTube sight, Tur saw that as infringing on his copyright.
A strange arrangement indeed, as YouTube has always taken good care to remove content at a copyright owners request, but this case seems to bring to light two achille's heels in YouTube's service.
First, they could easily fall victim to the same thing that happened to Napster... the central server issue. YouTube manages the hosting of all of the site's content, which puts them in direct control over 1) having the file on their server, and 2) keeping on patrol for copyrighted content. This might mean that they now have to have people actually prove that they are a copyright holder before uploading material. We'll have to see how this plays out -- who's more responsible, YouTube or the uploader?
Second, this shows how hard it is to hit a moving target. After recieving a notice from Robert Tur, YouTube scoured their site and removed all of the instances of the video they could find. The problem? after doing that, THERE'S STILL COPIES OF IT ON THE SITE. They could have missed some, or people could be uploading copies of the video over and over again.
In a statement sent to MTV News, YouTube explained "As of Wednesday morning (July 19), a search for the terms "Reginald Denny," "Reginald" or "Denny" resulted in no videos. But a search for "L.A. riot" turned up several videos, including the footage Tur shot of Denny. And according to Pizzulli, that's where the problem lies — something he refers to in the suit as "a murky moving target."
Robert Tur is seeking $150,000 for each copy of the video that was uploaded to YouTube's site, a number that is strikingly similiar to the RIAA's amount of money sought for each song distributed through P2P sites, a different process but similiar in the fact that it makes the content accesible to potentially millions of people on the Web.