Section 230 Protects YouTube’s Removal of User’s Videos–Lancaster v. Alphabet

This is one of those pro se cases where the court isn’t sure what the plaintiff is complaining about, so I apologize if my parsing is garbled as well. The court expends the most energy on the plaintiff’s allegation that YouTube improperly removed her videos. The court treats 230(c)(1) as dispositive, following Judge Koh’s lead in Sikhs for Justice v. Facebook (and the uncited Riggs v. MySpace case). Consistent with the Sikhs for Justice case, Section 230(c)(2) once again doesn’t merit a mention at all <sad emoji>. The court’s key paragraph:

Under the three-prong test articulated in Sikhs for Justice, Plaintiff cannot assert a claim based on Defendants’ removal of her videos. The Court finds, and Plaintiff appears to concede, that YouTube and Google are “interactive computer services.” See e.g., Compl. ¶¶ 9, 30 (alleging that Plaintiff uploads videos to Google’s video upload service, YouTube, in order to “share her video poems with a greater audience” and “entice new viewers to her poems”). Several other district courts are in accord. See e.g., Gavra v. Google Inc., No. 5:12-CV-06547-PSG, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100127, at *4-*9 (N.D. Cal. July 17, 2013); Jurin v. Google Inc., 695 F. Supp. 2d 1117, 1123 (E.D. Cal. 2010). Furthermore, Plaintiff acknowledges that the videos removed from her YouTube channel were not created by Defendants, but were either Plaintiff’s poems or public domain videos. See e.g., Compl. ¶¶ 2, 6, 9, 30. Finally, Defendants’ decision to “remov[e] content is something publishers do, and to impose liability on the basis of such conduct necessarily involves treating the liable party as a publisher.” Barnes, 570 F.3d at 1103; see also Fair Hous. Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.Com, LLC, 521 F.3d 1157, 1171 (9th Cir. 2008) (“any activity that can be boiled down to deciding whether to exclude material that third parties seek to post online is perforce immune under section 230.”).

This case shares some commonalities with the other YouTube remove-and-relocate cases, which I recapped in my post about Darnaa v. Google. I expect YouTube will eventually win all of these cases, and an emphatic application of Section 230(c)(1) has to be encouraging to Google/YouTube. This case also brought to mind the older (and uncited) case Williams v. CafePress, where a T-shirt vendor unsuccessfully claimed CafePress violated his trademarks by taking down his shirts.

Because the court relies on Section 230, the court sidesteps the potential applicability of 17 USC 512(g) (as well as YouTube’s contracts), which is a minor bummer because I’d love to see more cases actually use 512(g).

Section 230(c)(1) resolves all matters related to the video removals. The complaint alleges a variety of other concerns–10 causes of action in total. Most of these fail for insufficient allegations (a not-uncommon situation in pro se cases).

Case citation: Lancaster v. Alphabet Inc., 2016 WL 3648608 (N.D. Cal. July 8, 2016). The initial state court complaint.