YouTube has demonstrated that it is capable of handling copyright complaints on an unprecedented scale since it has established a highly automated system that aims to deal with enormous and escalating cases of infringement.
It remains to be seen whether the subsequent stages of development will address the widespread misuse of the takedown system, but the High Court of Justice, through the Business and Property Court in Birmingham, UK, aims to lower the volume, even if only by a small bit.
Takedown is a Game That Can Be Played by Two
Those who have the time and the patience to read the judgement that was handed down last week in Moviebox Megastores International Ltd & Ors v Rahi & Ors are likely to come out on the other side with a) a headache and b) relief that relatively few copyright takedown abuse cases ever get anywhere near a courtroom. The judgement was handed down in the case involving Moviebox Megastores International Ltd & Ors v Rahi & Ors.
The verdict makes reference to a trial that was connected to three different sets of procedures that were combined in 2021 per an order of the court.
According to the timeline provided by the Court, the issue began in February of 2017, when a singer and purported songwriter named Mohammad Rahi emailed Kamraan Ahmed, a director of a music publishing company called Moviebox Megastores International Ltd. Rahi issued a stern warning and threatened to take legal action in the event that his music CDs were not deleted from Moviebox’s YouTube channel as well as from iTunes.
After Ahmed’s refusal to delete the CDs, Rahi retaliated by creating his own YouTube account, which he then filled with music that he claimed to be the owner of. A month later, in April of 2017, Rahi filed copyright claims at iTunes for four of his albums that were released by Moviebox, and he filed copyright claims for six albums that were published on iTunes by the second claimant in the lawsuit, Oriental Star Agency Ltd. Every single complaint was dismissed.
In May of 2017, Moviebox took all of Rahi’s money in regard to four albums that he had posted to his newly-created YouTube channel by using YouTube’s Content ID system. This allowed Moviebox to seize Rahi’s revenue. After waiting another year, in October of 2019, Rahi began the process of submitting applications to the Intellectual Property Office in Pakistan in order to get copyright certificates for a number of songs as well as a book in which some songs were written.
The Beginning: Establishing a Strong Basis
The history of the disagreement is an unusual labyrinth of accusations, counterclaims, and animosity that has been stretched out over the course of several years. Throughout this time, papers have been analysed forensically, and fingerprints have been exposed to expert inspection.
The verdict of the court, which was issued on March 8, 2023, is clear and succinct, but it still manages to clock in at approximately 54,000 words; the focus of this article will be on the YouTube takedown effort and the repercussions that followed.
Both of the businesses that functioned under the Moviebox brand name were the ones that legitimately got Rahi’s records and then transferred them to the other firm. It was alleged that two of Rahi’s co-defendants, Mr. Qureshi and Ms. Manzoor (both singers), entered into a scheme to transfer rights to hundreds of songs. This scheme allegedly included some songs that had already been published on the Moviebox YouTube channel, for which Qureshi later filed copyright claims.
Alleging that Qureshi and Manzoor’s acts were intended to fuel Rahi’s malicious YouTube takedown campaign, the two Moviebox firms (henceforth referred to as Moviebox) and another claimant, Oriental Star Agency, filed a lawsuit against Rahi. Both of the defendants were found guilty by default because neither of them showed up to court.
Because of this, the court came to the conclusion that Qureshi and Manzoor had, in fact, participated in a criminal conspiracy or acted together with the intention of carrying out a shared plan to cause Moviebox a loss. The Court was tasked with determining whether or not Rahi was involved in the plot.
Untrustworthy Evidence, Fabricated Documents, and Violations of Copyright
In the verdict, Moviebox director Mr. Ahmed is referred to be a trustworthy witness. The court arrived at the conclusion that Rahi was not. According to the verdict, the singer lied to YouTube, lied about his ties to the rights reassignment issue, falsely claimed to have written songs that he did not write, and relied on information that had been fabricated. He also falsely claimed that he had written lyrics that he had not written.
Oriental Star Agency Ltd., the second claimant along with the two Moviebox firms, posted 41 of Rahi’s solo albums on iTunes in February of 2020. The copyright objections that Rahi sent to iTunes were all dismissed, however. After two months, Rahi objected to YouTube over the previous Content ID claims that were made against albums that were hosted on his channel and the income that was still being paid to Moviebox as a direct result of those allegations.
In retaliation, Moviebox lodged complaints with copyright authorities against Rahi’s channel, demanding that the four albums be removed. As a consequence of this, Rahi was given copyright strikes. After receiving the DMCA counternotices, Rahi followed up in June/July 2020 by filing copyright claims against YouTube channels that were managed by Moviebox and Oriental Star.
In July of 2020, Rahi initiated legal proceedings against Moviebox and Oriental Star at the Intellectual Property Tribunal in Lahore, claiming ownership of the copyright to songs that were published in a book. He supported his claim with a copyright certificate that he had obtained earlier in Pakistan.
Honoring the State of Suspension
When a number of copyright violations had been committed, YouTube’s policy for repeat infringers was activated in September 2020, and Moviebox’s channel was suspended as a result. According to the verdict, Rahi posted on his Facebook page the very following day that he was celebrating the suspension of his licence.
“In a video that was uploaded to Mr. Rahi’s Facebook channel, in which he and his lawyer, Mr. Zahoor, appear, Mr. Rahi is heard saying, “…and those companies and that Mafia should keep this matter in their minds, who I have confronted, I am giving this message to them that you have established your companies to make money…..’” Mr. Rahi is accompanied in the video by Mr. Zahoor, Mr. Rahi’s lawyer According to the evidence provided to the court, the defendant stated, “I spoke to Sister Shazia Manzoor, and she also informed me that brother these people had done harm to me.”
In the meanwhile, Moviebox has taken legal action against Rahi and has been granted a “without notice injunction,” which mandates that Rahi take back any strikes he has issued on YouTube. A little under two weeks after that, Rahi gave his consent to comply.
Not Finished Just Yet
Within just three weeks of Rahi’s promise, Qureshi began sending takedown warnings to Moviebox’s YouTube account and, in the same way as Rahi, initiated legal processes in Pakistan. Qureshi used the previously mentioned reassignment of rights in hundreds of songs to a) support his claims against YouTube and b) an application for an injunction against Moviebox and Oriental Star to prevent them from infringing his rights. Both of these actions were taken to prevent Qureshi’s rights from being violated.
In the month of November, Moviebox was dealt a second blow, this time from YouTube. Moviebox had responded to YouTube’s DMCA takedown notices with its own, but YouTube has stated that it would overlook Moviebox’s counternotices since Qureshi has requested an injunction against Moviebox in Pakistan.
Around this time, YouTube was threatening to delete the channel that Oriental Star had on its platform. In response to this, Oriental Star went ahead and secured an injunction ordering Rahi to withdraw the complaints that he had previously submitted to YouTube.
The two businesses operating under the Moviebox moniker initiated legal action against Rahi, Manzoor, and Qureshi in December 2020 and were successful in getting an injunction against the latter pair of defendants. When another three months had passed, default judgements were issued against both parties, with the awarding of damages still pending. It was decided not to proceed with the rights reassignment agreement.
The actions of Rahi resulted in a loss for the claimant.
According to the judgement that was released the previous week, Rahi was responsible for Moviebox’s financial losses “at least as a result of: (a) its main YouTube channel being de-activated by YouTube from 9 September 2020; and (b) YouTube preventing the First claimant from uploading new content to its other YouTube channels.”
Oriental Star also suffered financial damage as a result of Rahi since YouTube demanded the removal of 12 videos from the company’s channel and barred the business from posting any new content. According to the verdict, Rahi was responsible for the damage suffered by both claimants as a result of Qureshi and Manzoor’s rights transfer plan.
With regard to three different allegations, the presiding court ruled against Rahi and issued permanent injunctions against him. The judge commented as follows:
Simply put, the reason I believe that this course of action is appropriate is because Mr. Rahi has demonstrated a willingness, acting in his own name and through others, to pursue a relentless and fraudulent campaign aimed at damaging the economic interests of [Moviebox and Oriental Star]. This could have been done either as an end in itself or as a means of compelling the Claimants to stop exploiting songs sung by Mr. Rahi for their own commercial benefit, in order to leave Mr. Rahi free to do so
My opinion is that the Claimants are entitled to the protection of an appropriately worded injunction that may serve the dual purpose of: (a) discouraging Mr. Rahi from issuing any strikes himself against the Claimants’ YouTube channels or encouraging others to do so (and discouraging others from doing so at Mr. Rahi’s encouragement); and (b) enabling the Claimants to demonstrate to YouTube that there is in place an extant injunction that prohibits Mr. Rahi from engaging in
In January 2023, Rahi lodged a complaint of copyright infringement against Moviebox as well as many record companies situated in the United Kingdom. He asserts that the defendants made up the story that they owned his music and had the legal authority to publish his songs to YouTube despite the fact that they did not.
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