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Cameraman drops first YouTube suit to join class action

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Eight new groups of rights holders have joined the legal action against Google-owned video sharing website YouTube. Among the eight is Robert Tur, the cameraman who has dropped his existing suit against YouTube to join the case.

Tur began the first copyright infringement case against YouTube, but his suit was lodged before the company was bought by the deep-pocketed Google. He claimed that YouTube was making money by allowing people to view his footage – of controversial events such as 1992's LA riots or a car chase involving OJ Simpson – without his permission .

He said he has now dropped that complaint and joined the class action suit led by England's football Premier League.

"I carried the ball against YouTube for a year now," Tur said in a statement, according to news site News.com. "After careful analysis and consideration, I have concluded that the [Premier League] class action is the most effective way for independent copyright holders to secure the judicial remedies that I am seeking."

Tur's own case was the subject of a preliminary hearing in June at which both sides sought a summary judgment. That was denied, and Judge Florence-Marie Cooper's ruling on the summary motions was a mixed blessing for Tur.

His case and the class action he has joined both accuse YouTube of violations of the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). YouTube claims that as a service provider without control over the content published on the site, it qualifies for "safe harbour" protection under the Act.

Judge Cooper's preliminary judgment ruled in Tur's favour by refusing to guarantee that YouTube was protected by the DMCA's "safe harbour" clause.

Cooper issued a blow to Tur's case, though, when she said she would not rule that YouTube definitely benefited financially from violations of his copyright. She said that, under the DMCA, financial benefit is only considered once it is established that the service provider is in control of the offending material.

"As the statute makes clear, a provider's receipt of a financial benefit is only implicated where the provider also has the right and ability to control the infringing activity," said Judge Cooper. "Tur has not presented any evidence to the Court, despite numerous opportunities to do so, that establishes that YouTube had the right and ability to control the allegedly infringing activity."

Other companies have joined the class action this week, including the Finnish football league, the UK's Rugby Football League and the US's biggest music publishing organisation, the National Music Publishers' Association. France's football league and its tennis association have also joined the case.

A Google spokeswoman told The Scotsman that the case is based on a poor reading of the law.

"This lawsuit simply misunderstands the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which balances the rights of copyright holders against the need to protect internet communications and content. As a result, it threatens the way people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression over the internet," she said.

"Most content owners understand that we respect copyrights, we work every day to help them manage their content, and we are developing state-of-the-art tools to let them do that even better," said the spokeswoman.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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