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Bauermeister v. YouTube, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

February 2, 2018

YOUTUBE, LLC, Defendant.


          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge

         After granting Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the court now conducts an initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint (Filing No. 1) to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).


         Plaintiff, a resident of Nebraska, sues California-based YouTube, LLC, because YouTube has allegedly “made it almost impossible for a copyright owner or a person [who has] the permission of the copyright owner to file a proper Digital Millennium Copyright Act[] complaint on their website, ” in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 512, “which make[s] them liable of illegal copyright property . . . worth $20, 000, 000.00 . . . .” Besides money damages, Plaintiff asks the court to “give non commercial copyright owner[]s” the “same access as commercial have when [they] file a Digital Millennium Copyright complaint with YouTube, LLC.” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 4-5.)


         The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”).

         “The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.'” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).


         In the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pub. L. No. 105-304, 122 Stat. 2860 (1998) (codified as amended in scattered sections of 17 U.S.C.) (Westlaw 2018) (“DMCA”), Congress

established a “safe harbor” protecting the [internet] service provider from monetary, injunctive or other equitable relief for infringement of copyright in the course of service such as YouTube's. The Act places the burden of notifying such service providers of infringements upon the copyright owner or his agent. It requires such notifications of claimed infringements to be in writing and with specified contents and directs that deficient notifications shall not be considered in determining whether a service provider has actual or constructive knowledge.

         Viacom Int'l Inc. v. YouTube, Inc., 940 F.Supp.2d 110, 114-15 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (citing 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(B)(i)).

         One of these “safe harbors” is 17 U.S.C. § 512(d), which provides that an internet service provider like YouTube[1] is not liable for copyright infringement “by reason of the provider referring or linking users to an online location containing infringing material” if (1) the provider does not have knowledge of the infringing material or, upon obtaining such knowledge, acts expeditiously to remove the material; (2) does not receive a financial benefit from the infringing activity; and (3) when the provider is notified of the infringement, it responds expeditiously to remove or disable access to the infringing material.

         In order to avoid liability for copyright infringement, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(2) requires the service provider to designate an agent to receive notifications of alleged infringement “by making available through its service, including on its website in a location accessible to the public, and by providing to the Copyright Office” the name, address, phone number, and electronic mail address of the designated agent and other information deemed appropriate by the Register of Copyrights. This section requires the Register of Copyrights to “maintain a current directory of agents available to the public for inspection, including through the Internet.”[2] An internet service provider's failure to identify such an agent can subject it to liability for copyright infringement. Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. Hotfile Corp., No. 11-20427-CIV, 2013 WL 6336286, at *26 (S.D. Fla. ...

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