YouTube Escapes Suit Over Alleged Video Manipulation

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By Alexis Kramer

Alphabet Inc.'s YouTube can’t be held liable for a contract-based claim alleging that it wrongfully removed, relocated and reset the view count of a recording artist’s music video, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Feb. 21 ( Darnaa LLC v. Google Inc. , N.D. Cal., No. 3:15-cv-03221, 2/21/17 ).

A provision in YouTube’s terms of service agreement, which limits liability for damages arising from errors or omissions in user content, bars the plaintiff’s claim, Judge William Alsup said, dismissing the complaint.

The decision highlights that California law doesn’t protect contract claims from a limitation-of-liability clause unless such a clause shields the contractor from fraudulent actions.

Plaintiff Darnaa LLC, the owner of an independent music label, alleged that YouTube breached its good faith contractual duty to Darnaa by removing one of its videos, relocating it and resetting the view count to zero.

The court said that Section 1668 of the California Civil Code, which invalidates contractual releases from liability for fraud, willful injury or willful or negligent violation of a law, didn’t protect Darnaa’s claim from the limitation-of-liability clause. Darnaa “has not alleged that Google acted fraudulently, or that it willfully or intentionally injured Darnaa’s person or property,” the court said.

The court previously held in the case that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online publishers from liability for third-party content, barred Darnaa’s intentional interference claim based on the same factual allegations. The court had allowed Darnaa’s contract claim to proceed.

Steinhart Law Offices represented Darnaa. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati represented Alphabet.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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