YouTube Kills Viral Video for Being Too Popular, Six Year Old Sues

Feb 11, 2015

Sure, there are lots of viral YouTube videos.  There’s Katy Perry’s left shark, the owls dance off  and of course the kitten sup-purr bowl, but it might surprise you to learn that YouTube removed a video for being too popular.

That’s right, YouTube removed a music video of “Luv Ya Luv Ya Luv Ya” (“Luv Ya3”) by the alternative rock group Rasta Rock Opera, claiming it had become too popular through nefarious means.  A search for the video now results in the YouTube equivalent of  Microsoft’s blue screen of death.


YouTube alleged that Rasta Rock Opera’s distributor, Song Fi, gamed the music video’s “view count” by using robots or spiders (sounds like a David Bowie song) to ring up more views more quickly than was humanly possible.

Song Fi denied gaming the system and sued YouTube, and its parent Google, in the Federal Court for the District of Columbia.  Song Fi later amended its suit, adding a six year old who appeared in the music video, N.G.B., as a named plaintiff.  N.G.B. and his musical posse alleged breach of contract, libel, tortious interference with business relationships.  Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that YouTube discriminates against small, independent artists, while allowing major music labels to use spiders and robots to inflate view counts for “artists” like Psy (Gangnam Style) and Justin Bieber.  Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction ordering YouTube to restore Luv Ya3 along with its prior view count of over 23,000 views.  YouTube responded with motions to dismiss or to transfer the case to the Federal Court in Northern California.  The D.C. Court granted YouTube’s motion to transfer pursuant to the venue selection clause on YouTube’s terms of use, but denied, without prejudice, Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and YouTube’s motion to dismiss.

While not ruling on the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims, the D.C. Court showed some sympathy to Plaintiffs’ libel claim regarding YouTube’s posting that “[t]his video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service.” While recognizing that YouTube’s terms of use prohibit the use of spiders and robots, the Court stated that “it seems to me that [false counts] are not content.”   In fact, the Court told the YouTube attorney she thought he should “take this back to your client and your client should rewrite the contract.”  If the California court agrees, YouTube may not be able to hide behind its current terms of use.

Of course, N.G.B. and the other Plaintiffs may have already won, as they stand to gain as much or more notoriety by suing YouTube/Google and having bloggers blog about it, as they do by posting music videos featuring six year olds.