Back in April of 2016 h3h3Productions’ Ethan Klein confirmed that fellow YouTuber Matt “Bold Guy” Hoss had flagged a recently published video titled “The Big, the BOLD, the Beautiful”. Matt Hoss’ complaint was that the video used over 70% of his work “while contributing nothing substantive”, as argued by his lawyer Tim Bukher. He wasn’t happy that the video received hundreds of thousands of views, especially given it analyzed his work in traditionally comedic h3h3Productions fashion.
Matt Hoss would soon transition the YouTube flag into a civil action lawsuit against Ethan Klein, alleging copyright infringement for the video. h3h3Productions would upload a follow-up called “We’re Being Sued” a month later, explaining the seriousness of the situation to the channel’s audience.
Instead of settling with a payout, Ethan Klein chose to combat the charges in court, a move he would argue was “for principle”. His explanation was that unless himself and others refuse to be intimidated by the time and financial costs of lawsuit threats on YouTube, they may continue to be exploited to silence the opinions of content creators.
Since then, Ethan Klein and wife Hila have spent over a year dealing with the nuances of the lawsuit, including a transition of representation from Morrison & Lee LLP to a new unknown law firm back in November 2016, causing a major setback. More importantly, the cost of legal fees have continued to stack up, to a point where Ethan Klein confirmed in February that they were charged more than $50,000 in a single month.
Ethan Klein holding up a $50,000 bill for one month of legal fees.
Following this tumultuous period, h3h3Productions’ Ethan Klein announced with excitement today that he won the lawsuit. The announcement was made via Twitter, reading:
We won the lawsuit. Video coming soon. Huge victory for fair use on YouTube.
Details of the ruling are currently unconfirmed, but as stated by Ethan Klein a video update is in the works.
This is a particularly significant moment in the history of YouTube. There have been many cases of settlements over copyright infringement in the past, but very few cases of lawsuits working their way to completion. In most circumstances, the legal fees deter many channels from defending themselves.
The judgment of this case is a landmark victory for proponents of fair use, and a huge loss for DMCA abusers. Copyright law and how it applies to YouTube videos has been wildly debated in recent years, with some contending that when a channel uploads content, it should grant the creator exclusive rights to its use and distribution. Other state that fair use should protect that content from being used in a referential manner.
YouTube has been quick to grant takedowns in response to copyright requests throughout the history of its product, to a point where, in many cases, works that very clearly don’t step into copyright territory are treated as doing so. Some argue that this is due to YouTube and parent company Alphabet’s vulnerability as the creator of a platform where millions of users actively share content, much of which uses copyrighted works.
Update: h3h3Productions has uploaded a video that shares Ethan and Mila Klein’s opinion on the verdict, which you can watch below. In addition, the full written judgement has been published online here.