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Federal judge denies class action certification in Google copyright case

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Wednesday denied a motion to certify a putative class action against Google's YouTube [corporate website] involving copyright owners from around the world. Named plaintiffs included the English Premier League, the French Tennis Federation, the National Music Publishers' Association [corporate websites] and several other music publishers. The plaintiffs asserted that YouTube infringed on copyrighted materials [Reuters report] by allowing unauthorized hosting of certain protected video and sound clips. Unnamed class members included copyright owners who issued "take-down notices" to Youtube after its unauthorized hosting, and any music publisher whose copyrighted materials were posted on the site without permission. District Judge Louis stanton held Wednesday that the nature of the specific claims would require each class member to demonstrate a high degree of individualized factual evidence regarding their specific injury, thus complicating the requirement of representative typicality found in Rule 23 [text] of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [text]. According to media sources, the plaintiffs are considering appealing the decision, as denial of class action certification is immediately appealable as a matter of course.

The plaintiffs filed suit for copyright infringement against Google in 2007 concurrently with Viacom [corporate website], which owns Comedy Central, MTV and VH1. Viacom sought $1 billion in damages as well as an injunction against YouTube for clips that were posted on the website without authorization. However, in April the US District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed [JURIST report] Viacom's suit. The court held that YouTube was protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) "safe harbor" provisions, which shelter service providers from the infringing activities of their customers by shifting liability to individual infringing customers. Viacom previously brought a similar suit [JURIST report] against YouTube in 2007, but was unsuccessful.

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