Musician Maria Schneider cannot confirm class action lawsuit against YouTube, ruled judge

On Monday, YouTube clinched a small victory in its ongoing battle against Schneider’s injury lawsuits. Schneider’s attorneys had urged Judge Donato to pursue the case as a class action, but Donato ruled, “Copyright claims are poor candidates for a class action.”

In the long-running court confrontation between David and Goliath, Goliath achieved another victory. Federal Judge James Donato ruled in favor of YouTube, writing, “Each copyright claim is based on facts specific to that individual claim of infringement.” Each copyright claim is also subject to defenses that require its own individual examination.”

With a hearing date set for June 12, Schneider’s attorneys had asked the judge to pursue the case as a class action, claiming that the class action would include at least 10,000 to 20,000 aggrieved copyright owners. “A class action lawsuit is a better way to account for YouTube’s involvement and abetting in copyright infringement.”

But in Monday’s decision, Judge Donato said the claims against YouTube would require “very individual investigations of merit,” adding, “Whether YouTube has a license for a particular work will be the subject of intense scrutiny in court.” Response to that request will depend on the facts and circumstances that are unique to each work and copyright applicant.”

The now widely publicized court battle began in July 2020. Grammy-winning composer Maria Schneider had alleged, among other things, that YouTube had denied “normal” copyright owners like her full access to Content ID, thereby exposing their works to repeated infringements.

Their lawsuit alleged that YouTube is a “known breeding ground for copyright piracy” and that although the company has developed a leading anti-piracy tool, Content ID, the platform denies access to it to copyright owners “without economic power”.

YouTube denied any wrongdoing, claiming it had “spent over $100 million developing industry-leading copyright management tools” to prevent piracy. The video-sharing platform argued that access to Content ID was restricted because these tools could cause “serious damage” in the wrong hands.

The latest major development in the case came in January, when YouTube won a partial summary judgment against Maria Schneider for 27 of the works that Schneider initially claimed were infringed, citing a lack of evidence.

Though Monday’s ruling doesn’t close the case, the ruling represents another twist shifting the courtroom drama in YouTube’s favor. The case is now being heard solely on the basis of the copyrights held by Schneider and two other plaintiffs (Uniglobe Entertainment and AST Publishing). June 12 is scheduled as the hearing date.