YouTube Defeats Another Remove-and-Relocate Lawsuit–Song Fi v. Google

The YouTube “remove-and-relocate” cases involve similar facts. A YouTuber uploaded a video and promoted it. YouTube suspected irregularities with the promotion, removed the video from its initial URL (breaking inbound links, stripping the comments, and resetting the like and view counters), put up a notice claiming that the video was removed for violations of YouTube’s T&Cs, and then reposted the video at a new URL. YouTube’s handling of these matters has been a little clumsy, including ambiguous wording in its on-site disclosures. Still, YouTube unquestionably has the legally unrestricted right to remove-and-relocate user content–even if exercising that discretion does rattle the confidence of all YouTubers who might fear that YouTube will capriciously break their inbound links and waste the associated marketing expenses.

Today’s case involves a video called “Luv Ya” that YouTube removed-and-relocated. (I had a little trouble finding the video online in 2015, and my apologies, it just wasn’t worth trying again now). We previously blogged this case twice. In 2014, Venkat blogged a venue ruling, and in 2015, I blogged the plaintiff’s unexpected defeat of YouTube’s Section 230(c)(2) defense even though Section 230(c)(2) seemed tailor-made for a situation like this. The 2015 Song Fi ruling draws cites for its limits on Section 230(c)(2), and it reinforced why Internet Law folks give Section 230(c)(2) so little luv.

Along the way, YouTube has whittled Song Fi’s claims down to just two: libel (based on the murkiness of YouTube’s disclosure on the removed page’s URL) and tortious interference. Both claims failed on summary judgment.

On libel, the court cites the Bartholomew case, another remove-and-relocate case, which rejected the defamation claim against YouTube. Among other justifications, the court says:

the Bartholomew court’s reasoning is persuasive. YouTube’s Notice is generic and does not identify any particular type of offense. It refers to the Community Guidelines, which list a multitude of possible offenses that could have resulted in the removal of the video. Accordingly, it is unlikely that any reasonable reader would interpret the Notice and Community Guidelines in such a way as to expose Plaintiffs to “to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy,” or cause them to be “shunned or avoided,” or to be injured in their occupation.

The tortious interference claim fails because YouTube didn’t know of the affected relationships or act intentionally to interfere with them.

While the result in this case is not surprising, the amount of time (4 years!) and money required by this case surprised me. It’s good evidence of the miscalibration of Section 230(c)(2), which should have quickly and easily resolved this case. Without Section 230(c)(2), cases like this take far too long and unnecessarily consume too many resources only to reach an entirely predictable outcome. But YouTube also could have made its life easier by picking more precise words to describe what it was doing (remove-and-replace) and why.

Case Citation: Song Fi v. Google, Inc., 2018 WL 2215836 (N.D. Cal. May 15, 2018)

Other YouTube Remove-and-Relocate Posts:

YouTube Defeats Defamation Claim in ‘Remove-and-Relocate’ Case–Bartholomew v. YouTube
YouTube Defeats Another Remove-and-Relocate Case–Darnaa v. Google
Google Loses Two Section 230(c)(2) Rulings–Spy Phone v. Google and Darnaa v. Google
Section 230 Protects YouTube’s Removal of User’s Videos–Lancaster v. Alphabet
YouTube Wins Another Case Over Removing And Relocating User Videos (re Lewis v. Google)
Can YouTube ‘Remove And Relocate’ User Videos Capriciously?–Darnaa v. Google
Section 230(c)(2) Gets No Luv From the Courts–Song Fi v. Google
Venue Clause in YouTube Terms of Service Upheld–Song Fi v. Google