YouTube Takes Down a Troll - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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YouTube Takes Down a Troll

YouTube Takes Down a Troll

Copyright infringement continues to plague the Internet.1 Because of how easy it is to plagiarize, Congress empowered copyright owners to fight this recurring problem by enacting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) in 1998.2

Filing a DMCA takedown notice is an easy process. To submit a notice, a person simply needs: (1) the URL of where the copyrighted material is posted; (2) a statement that the person sending the notice believes in good faith that use of the copyrighted material in the manner complained of is not authorized; (3) an affidavit that the notice is accurate and sent by the owner of the material, and (4) a physical or electronic signature.3

The DMCA not only provides copyright owners a way of claiming authorship over their works, but also exempts servers from liability if they properly comply with takedown notices. The DMCA gives “safe harbor” to servers, so they do not get caught up in potential litigation for displaying copyrighted content.4 Servers are given immunity if: (1) the server did not have actual knowledge that the posted material is infringing; (2) the server is not aware of the facts or circumstances that would make the infringement apparent; and (3) the server responds expeditiously to take the material offline upon receiving a proper DMCA takedown notice.5

However, the ease of submitting takedowns has led to problems of abuse. Recently, YouTube settled a lawsuit with alleged copyright “troll” Christopher Brady, prohibiting him from “submitting any notices of alleged copyright infringement to YouTube that misrepresent that material hosted on the YouTube service is infringing copyrights held or claimed to be held by Brady or anyone Brady claims to represent.”6 The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit initiated in August of 2019, after YouTube discovered that Brady had been purposely targeting several content creators.7 According to YouTube’s policies, three strikes on a user’s channel results in the termination of their channel.8 Brady was allegedly striking channels twice and demanding payment to not strike a third time.9 As part of the settlement, Brady is paying $25,000 in damages.10

Although YouTube successfully received compensation from Brady exploiting DMCA takedown notices, the DMCA does not grant damages just because a website posted copyrighted material.11 The content is merely taken down.12 While this may grant some relief to the author of the work, this does not prevent that same work from reappearing on another website. In stopping the spread of plagiarism, DMCA takedowns are only a temporary solution.

  1. Twitter Inc., 15th Transparency Report: Increase in proactive enforcement on accounts, Twitter Blog (Oct. 31, 2019), []

  2. Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2860 (1998).[/footnot] Under the DMCA, any copyright owner may request that a server take down their works by sending a DMCA takedown notice.[footnote]What is a DMCA Takedown?, DMCA (Oct. 10, 2019), []

  3. Kent D. Stuckey et al., Internet and Online Law § 6.10 Copyright Liability of Online Service Providers (May 2019).

  4. Id.

  5. 17 U.S.C. § 512(c).

  6. Julia Alexander, YouTube gets alleged copyright troll to agree to stop trolling YouTubers, The Verge (Oct. 15, 2019) []

  7. Id.[/footnote] Brady had been using DMCA takedown notices in an attempt to extort money from several YouTube channels.[footnote]Id.

  8. Id.

  9. Id.

  10. Id.

  11. 17 U.S.C. § 512(c).

  12. Id.

Justin Javier

Justin Javier is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. He is also the External Vice President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Psychology from Michigan State University.