Is the privately-owned YouTube site really a “state actor” subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment? That’s the claim made in a lawsuit by Prager University, which is not really a university. The Ninth Circuit was recently called upon to address PragerU’s claim that the widely popular internet site operated by a private entity should be treated as a “state actor” subject to the First Amendment.  Unsurprisingly, the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed well-established case authority to hold that the First Amendment’s protections apply only as to protect against governmental action, not to private companies such as YouTube.

PragerU claims that its mission is purportedly “to ‘provide conservative view points and perspective on public issues that it believes are often overlooked.’”  PragerU creates videos that target younger audiences and has posted hundreds of videos on YouTube.
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Whenever there is a report of a YouTube creator being sued for copyright infringement, the response from the creator and the community seems to be one of shock and surprise.  The truth is, successful YouTube content creators should not be surprised when they get sued for copyright infringement.  Any person or company that creates content

This copyright Scott-Hervey-10-webcase pitted two big YouTube content brands against each other over issues of fair use. On one side is Equals Three, LLC, a YouTube content studio and channel created and owned by Ray William Johnson, an early YouTube content pioneer. The Equals Three channel has over 10 million subscribers and over 3 billion total views making it one of the most viewed channels on YouTube. Equals Three produces YouTube comedy content. A typical program involves a host who gives an introduction to a particular video clip, shows parts of video clips (which are usually shown in edited form and inset within a decorative graphical frame) and tells humorous or provides humorous commentary about the events and people presented in the clip. Each program is roughly five minutes long and typically features three segments, each of which centers around a different video.

One the other side is Jukin Media, Inc. Jukin is a digital media company that primarily acquires user generated video content and distributes and monetizes such content over multiple online platforms and traditional media outlets, produces and licenses. Jukin acquires the user-generated content by using a research and acquisitions team of eleven people to scour the internet for videos likely to become sensationally popular. Once Jukin acquires the rights to user-generated content, it uploads the video to its YouTube channel and its own websites. Jukin makes money from these videos by ad-supported or subscription-based platforms. Jukin also licenses these videos to other digital, television and cable shows.Continue Reading Court Provides Fair Use Guidance On YouTuber’s Use of Viral Video

Scott-Hervey-10-webIn July, this author wrote about Lenz v. Universal which, at the time, was pending before the 9th Circuit.  On September 14, 2015 the 9th Circuit came down with a ruling which answered whether a copyright owner must consider fair use before proceeding with a takedown notice under the DMCA, and, if so, what are the consequences for failing to do so.

The facts of Lenz are fairly simple. Lenz posted to YouTube a very short video of her young child dancing to a Prince song playing in the background. At the time, Universal Music Publishing was managing Prince’s music publishing. An attorney at Universal manually reviewed the posting but acknowledged that he did not consider whether the Lenz video was fair use. Universal sent a DMCA takedown notice to YouTube and YouTube removed access to the video. Most normal takedown situations end there; however, Lenz was upset, and, after trying and failing to remedy the situation herself, sought the aid of attorneys at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Clarifies Copyright Holder’s Responsibility When Sending A Takedown Notice Under The DMCA