Yandex Faces $40 Million Lawsuit for Indexing Pirate Videos

By Bill Toulas / August 14, 2020

The Russian TV broadcaster ‘TeleSport’ has decided to go against the biggest search engine in the country, Yandex, by filing a lawsuit in a Moscow court. The copyright holder accuses Yandex of participating in copyright-infringing operations by indexing video results that point to pirated content.

More specifically, TeleSport mentions Italian Serie A football/soccer matches that they paid millions to secure the exclusive broadcasting license for, and which Yandex included on its video searching platform. Given the popularity of Yandex, TeleSport feels that the damage incurred by their actions account for $40 million.

Yandex even embedded these videos right on its platform. While the link points to another platform, visitors of the video search webpage could see previous of copyright-protected content as if they had paid for it. About 73% of the 590 links shown in Yandex’s results pointed to the official TeleSport platforms, but the rest were from YouTube uploads and streams that were basically unlicensed.

The fact that the majority of Yandex links led to the official content wasn’t enough to save the search engine company from finding trouble, though. The case will be reviewed on September 4, 2020, and judge Polyga V.A. will have to consider the substantial 2.95 billion rubles demand.

From its side, Yandex is accepting none of this and is getting ready to defend its case. According to its legal team, the search engine just indexes whatever is publicly available, so it’s not that they purposefully hand-picked the YouTube links and added them in the results. In fact, there were negotiations between Yandex and TeleSport that started in 2019, during which the two parties discussed the details that underpinned displaying licensed videos in the results. Instead of finding common ground, though, no deal was ever reached, and so here we are.

This is not the first time that Yandex is accused of aiding piracy, and as long as there is no concrete way of managing the legal implications that link search engines and illegally source content, there will be no end to this.

Last December, a Moscow court was even considering blocking access to Yandex and YouTube because of this, but local ISPs objected to this and called it a disproportional response. Even earlier, in 2018, Yandex was found in the middle of controversy for linking to pirate sites again.

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