By Fiona Huang
For those who conduct business by using Amazon, eBay, YouTube or other platforms, you may have encountered intellectual property (IP) infringement by your competitors. One of the most effective ways to protect your IP rights is to report the infringement to the platform provider. The provider should always respond swiftly and take action against the infringer.
However, a recent judgment (Moviebox Megastores International Ltd and others v Rahi and others  EWHC 501 (Ch)) should be of importance to rightsholders by clarifying that the court may issue injunctions against those who abuse the platform’s policy with regards to IP protections. This article will briefly introduce the case and highlight its practical implications, including the question of
Keep reading to learn more.
Background of case
In February 2017, Mohammad Rahi (Defendant) emailed Moviebox Megastores International Ltd (one of the Claimants), claiming that the 4 albums (claimed to have been written by the Defendant) published by Moviebox’s YouTube and iTunes accounts infringed his copyright. The Defendant then requested that Moviebox remove the material on the platforms. After being rejected by Moviebox, the Defendant issued various complaints (referred to as copyright ‘Strikes’ under YouTube policy) against Moviebox’s YouTube account and an additional account run by Oriental Star Agencies (another Claimant).
According to YouTube policy, parties can report copyright infringement on the platform and this will trigger YouTube’s internal takedown process. YouTube will then use its discretionary right to suspend the alleged infringer’s account. The Defendant, by making 3 separate strikes which covered 26 YouTube links appearing on Moviebox’s YouTube channel, successfully had the alleged infringing contents removed from the Claimants’ YouTube accounts and ultimately had the accounts suspended. These strikes resulted in Moviebox’s loss and damaged the relations between Moviebox and YouTube. Therefore, Moviebox brought a claim against the Defendant.
The court’s decision
After having heard and viewed the evidence and the parties’ arguments, the Court ruled that the Defendant did not own the copyrights in the relevant albums. It was the Court’s view that the Defendant wilfully ‘pursued a relentless and fraudulent campaign’ aimed at damaging the economic interest of Moviebox and allowing his own free use of the works. As a result, the court granted a permanent injunction against Defendant, which prohibited the Defendant from making further Strikes against Moviebox. Clearly, the injunction would also help Moviebox to demonstrate to YouTube that the Defendant was abusing the platform’s procedure and his complaints should not be actioned on.
Practical implications of the case
It can be seen from this case that the platform providers were willing to take action against the alleged infringer without carefully verifying the complainant’s identity. As a result, a party may abuse the platform’s policy to unlawfully have its competitors’ products removed and accounts suspended and hence achieve an outcome it desires. From now on, it is likely that platforms will take more serious investigation as to whether the complainant is the true rightsholder.
A business wanting to remove any alleged products or contents by claiming IP infringement should be prepared to show its ownership of the IP. Otherwise, the other party will likely apply for injunctive relief, particularly where the abusive complaints result in unlawful interference with the other party’s business.
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