Grisman sues YouTube

David Grisman clip on YouTubeIn the first case I’m aware of involving a bluegrass artist, mandolinist David Grisman has filed suit against online video sharing website, YouTube. From large media conglomerates such as Viacom to soccer leagues, many have filed similar suits since Google’s recent acquisition of YouTube.

Grisman’s lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of cash for copyright infringement, as well as a court order forcing YouTube to comply with copyright laws in the future. Grisman and company seek to pursue the case not only for themselves, but also for other independent musicians and publishers.

YouTube’s response to such cases has historically been that they always comply with requests to remove unauthorized material when asked to do so by the copyright owners, and are therefore protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The suit was filed May 10, 2007 in a San Francisco federal court.

Some have pointed out the irony of someone who has always encouraged fans to bootleg his live performances now suing a video sharing site, but Grisman draws a distinction between fan bootlegs and “Google distribution.” Personally I don’t see much difference myself, since the fan bootlegs invariably end up online where they are distributed worldwide in the same way that YouTube clips are. But ultimately, as a copyright owner, it’s his right to decide when and where to allow use of his copyrighted works. But, you might ask, was a lawsuit really necessary?

Here’s part of the text from the suit.

they [Google and YouTube] deliberately refuse to take meaningful steps to deter the rampant infringing activity readily apparent on YouTube which would, in turn, have a negative impact on the advertising and other reviews and other value achieved through the large volume of traffic on the YouTube Web site.

Essentially the difference, as Grisman and company seem to be drawing it, is that YouTube, and by extension Google, is making money on the site where fans trading bootlegs aren’t. At least that’s the thought process, and I can go along with that. If he’s willing to give away, so to speak, his copyright by allowing fans to tape, that is different from someone seeking to monazite his copyrights without his consent.

I understand how he can be ok with live show taping, but not ok with YouTube video sharing. Other copyright owners might be ok with it though (I know some who are). So why try to take that choice away by forcing YouTube into a business model that wouldn’t allow it? Why not just ask YouTube to remove your works and, assuming they do, leave it at that?

  • 1969mets

    Jeez, this is all so confusing. Astute, savvy artists and businessmen have come down on both sides of this issue, but it sure is unbelievably ironic to have Grisman–who, as a young man, lugged around a tape recorder to bluegrass shows–going this route.

    In the future, when artists will have to pay for placement in the promotional tools that “YouTube” will become, everyone will realize this was the golden age.

  • Jon Weisberger

    Ah, yes, the future. The only thing we know about the future is that it ain’t here yet. And I don’t see any particular irony here. It’s not hard to see a meaningful difference between making an analog tape of a show you’ve actually attended on the one hand and distributing worldwide infinitely reproducible digital recordings of performances you didn’t attend worldwide on the other.

    As for Brance’s question:

    Why not just ask YouTube to remove your works and, assuming they do, leave it at that?

    I think the answer might be that what’s happening with YouTube and other “sharing” systems reveals that pro forma compliance with the DMCA removal requirement doesn’t actually address the problem, since users can – and do – immediately re-upload the pirated material.

  • carmen

    Artists need to understand that the world has changed. I’m a bigger fan than ever because of watching him on utube. It’s greed.

  • martinmcwhorter

    Who does Grisman think he is, Lars Ulrick? Way to go. Ruin a good thing for the rest of us. I hope the Google lawyers trounce him so he has to sell his Loars.

  • Jon Weisberger

    Ruin a good thing for the rest of us.

    Let’s recall that the “good thing” here is nothing more nor less than the posting of copyrighted material against the express wishes of the copyright holder.