YouTube Wins Another Case Over Removing And Relocating User Videos (Forbes Cross-Post)

Photo credit: RELOCATE word written on wood block // ShutterStock

Photo credit: RELOCATE word written on wood block // ShutterStock

I recently blogged about a lawsuit against YouTube for taking down a user’s video and relocating it to a different URL. Users get upset when their videos are removed-and-relocated because the process strips the video of its view count and any user comments, breaks any inbound links and potentially makes the user look like he or she did something wrong. However, aggrieved YouTube users aren’t finding much success in court, as a recent California appeals court ruling highlighted.

Jan Lewis ran a YouTube channel called “bulbheadmyass”, where she posted videos of her band “Remington Riders.” YouTube deleted her channel in 2012, saying it thought she had spammed other YouTube users in violation of the no-spamming clause in YouTube’s terms of service/TOS. (The actual TOS provision says “You agree not to solicit, for commercial purposes, any users of the Service with respect to their Content.” I’m using the euphemism “spam” as a shorthand). YouTube eventually restored Lewis’ account access, which allowed her to restore her videos at new URLs.

The appeals court rejects Lewis’ two primary legal arguments. First, YouTube’s TOS contained a lengthy limitation of liability clause that successfully eliminated Lewis’ claims for any damages:

the limitation of liability clause encompassed Lewis’s claim that YouTube wrongfully failed to include her videos, the number of views of these videos, and the comments on the videos by other YouTube visitors on its Web site….By claiming that YouTube wrongfully deleted her videos, the number of views of the videos, and the comments on the videos, Lewis is claiming that YouTube failed to do as it should by omitting content on its Web site.

Second, Lewis sought to compel YouTube to restore the old URLs, comments and view counts. The court says YouTube’s TOS never promises that:

there is no provision in the Terms of Service that requires YouTube to maintain particular content on the Service or at a particular location on the Service. There is also no provision in the Terms of Service pursuant to which YouTube is obligated to display view counts or comments associated with videos. There is nothing in the Terms of Service even suggesting that YouTube is a storage site for users’ content.

For these reasons, the court dismissed her claim.

While the court’s opinion never uses the term “spam,” it appears that Lewis and other similarly-situated plaintiffs are being caught in what I’ll characterize as YouTube’s anti-spam crackdowns. Ultimately, other YouTube content suppliers and users want YouTube to discourage spammers from overrunning YouTube and undermining the credibility of its systems. It’s a little unclear if YouTube’s anti-spam efforts are over-inclusive and thus inadvertently ensnaring legitimate activity. It’s entirely clear, however, that YouTube won’t be legally liable for its anti-spam initiatives even if it’s being overzealous.

Case citation: Lewis v. YouTube LLC, 2015 WL 9480614 (Cal. App. Ct. Dec. 28, 2015)