Users of YouTube upload millions of pieces of content to the platform every month, much of it without incident or irritation to third-parties.
However, there are those who upload copyright content, most of it music and videos, that infringe on the rights of the original owners.
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When that happens, copyright holders can file claims with YouTube to have the content removed, via the platform’s Content ID system or by filing a manual claim.
Users are generally aware that these complaints have the potential to lead to a ‘strike’ against their accounts but a publishing giant in Japan seems to want to take things much further.
Founded in 1922, Shogakukan Inc. is one of Japan’s largest publishers offering more than 60 magazines, 8,000 books, and 13,000 manga titles (comics/graphic novels), to name a few. It’s also part owner of Viz Media, the largest publisher of comic books and graphic novels in the United States.
Shogakukan’s manga publications are often pirated in digital formats (PDF documents, for example) but they also get uploaded to YouTube. These take the form of videos, often set to music, featuring static views of the pages of each title, timed for easy reading.
YouTube users who uploaded the company’s content in this fashion now need to look over their shoulders.
On May 24, lawyers acting for Shogakukan requested a DMCA subpoena at a California district court to help it identify several YouTube channel operators who allegedly uploaded images of the company’s content.
DMCA subpoenas are not reviewed by a judge and only require a signature from a court clerk. As a result, Shogakukan may shortly be in receipt of some very sensitive information, at least according to its letter to YouTube.
In addition to requiring YouTube to disable access to the infringing works as listed by the publisher, the Google-owned video platform must also hand over the personal details of several channel operators identified as LNDA, Kile Russo, Anime FightClub, and Optimistic Neko, among others.
The subpoena requires YouTube to hand over information it holds on the alleged infringers “from the time of user registration with any and all of the Infringer’s Accounts”, including names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, IP address logs, account and credit card numbers and the names of financial institutions connected to them.
According to the subpoena, the information above shall be obtained “from any and all sources” including YouTube accounts, Google AdSense accounts, “or any other service accounts(s) registered with or linked to the infringer’s account” with YouTube.
Interestingly, however, the term “infringer” appears to apply to a broader range of YouTube users than just the handful of individuals listed in the subpoena.
The letter contains a list of Shogakukan works and then states that, in addition to the named channels/users, YouTube must hand over the details of “any other users registered with www.youtube.com who uploaded and/or posted any Infringing Work specified under the column entitled as “Infringing Work” in Exhibit A.”
Given the broad nature of the subpoena, it seems that YouTube is not only being asked to provide targeted information but is also required to work pro-actively by searching for the content in question and then handing over the personal details of anyone who may have uploaded it.
While the DMCA subpoena process may be quick, a judge’s experience might have proven valuable in this case, given its potential scope.