What the Premier League vs YouTube Court Document Reveals

YouTube and Viacom unsealed many of the documents Thursday related to the copyright litigation from 2007 in which Viacom and the Premier League sued Google for $1 billion alleging copyright infringement. The document below is Google’s brief asserting that its YouTube service is immune from copyright liability in the Premier League v YouTube case.

The vast majority of information in the document is focused on YouTube and Viacom, but there are a few revealing tidbits of information in relation to the Premier League.

Here is what the court documents reveal:

  • In early 2006, YouTube rolled out an easy to use tool that enables copyright holders to search for videos, mark those that allegedly infringe, and request their removal with the click of a button, rather than having to prepare individual paper or email DMCA notices.
  • At around the same time, YouTube deployed “hashing” technology that creates a unique digital signature for each video removed in response to DMCA takedown notices and automatically prevents identical copies of the removed video from being posted.
  • A considerable number of the class plaintiffs’ clips in suit are extremely short; the Premier League alone is suing over dozens of clips under five seconds long and at least one that is one second long.
  • And several of the soccer clubs that make up (and own) the Premier League have created official YouTube “channels” to which they have uploaded a variety of videos, including footage of matches. These plaintiffs did not inform YouTube of the details of their licensing arrangements that allow the posting of their content on YouTube. Thus, even assuming that YouTube had recognized a given clip as containing a particular class plaintiff’s copyrighted material, it would not have been apparent to YouTube whether that clip was licensed or unlicensed.

YouTube’s argument seems sound. It has provided tools for the Premier League to aid in the process of removing copyrighted information from YouTube. And many of the videos that did infringe on the Premier League’s copyright were as short as 1-5 seconds.

However, in the Premier League’s defense, clubs have uploaded videos to their official YouTube channels, but those are usually not match or goal highlights, so there shouldn’t be much confusion to YouTube regarding who owns the copyright to those games. If it’s a Premier League match, the Premier League owns the rights. From what I’ve seen on the official club YouTube channels, the footage is usually interviews or behind-the-scenes video of training or the team on the road.

The court documents, which were filed with the federal court last month, are the latest step in the Premier League and Viacom’s legal fight against YouTube. The court will need to decide whether enough evidence exists for the judge to rule without sending the case to trial.

Stay tuned to EPL Talk for the latest developments.

In the meantime, here is the brief from YouTube/Google with their argument against the Premier League and Viacom’s claims:



  1. Patrick March 20, 2010
  2. Karl Pilky March 20, 2010
  3. badepl March 20, 2010
  4. SeminoleGunner March 20, 2010
  5. Jious March 20, 2010
  6. Simon Peacock October 4, 2010
  7. jesmeshd July 3, 2012

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