(CN) - A YouTube user is unfairly profiting off an adorable video she stole of a baby playing in a bathtub, the child's mother claims in Federal Court.
Ashley Candler says she was stunned to find out that the video, which shows her infant son splashing joyously with a pet dachshund, had been viewed more than 69 million times - but on a different person's YouTube channel.
She sued Shannon Carter, the alleged thief, for copyright infringement in the Eastern District of California.
According to the complaint, Carter exploited the family film to make money from advertising revenue, even going so far as claiming that she was the toddler's aunt.
"Candler is the mother of a young son," her complaint states. "In or around December 2010, Candler created a video entitled 'Bath Time Fun.' The video displays her toddler son in the bathtub, teasing the family dachshund with a bath toy. The dachshund repeatedly jumps for the toy and misses, causing Candler's son to laugh adorably. The video lasts approximately a minute. Candler owns U.S. Copyright Registration No. PA1829720 for the video.
"On January 12, 2011, Candler posted the video to YouTube so that friends and family could view it.
"The very next day, on January 13, 2011, defendant copied the video to her publicly available YouTube channel, sweetfacesjc. In a caption to the video, defendant claimed that the video showed 'my nephew cracking up while teasing the dog with his toy. Original content taken by me with my Droid phone. I own all content copyrights to this video.' These statements were false."
Candler says that Carter's video went viral, and has been seen more than 69 million times.
As of Oct. 9, the video remains on sweetfacesjc's YouTube channel and has been viewed more than 70 million times, though there is no trace of the caption described in the complaint. Sweetfacesjc's video is titled "Bath time fun. Super cute!"
Each hit it receives makes Carter richer, Candler says.
"On information and belief, in addition to copying and publicly displaying the video without authorization, defendant has 'monetized' the video by authorizing YouTube to insert advertisements into the video that play each time the video is clicked," the lawsuit says. "On information and belief, defendant is paid each time a viewer watches the video with the advertisements."
Carter even licensed the video to third parties and encouraged other websites to link back to her YouTube channel, according to the complaint.
The video was briefly disabled on Carter's YouTube channel after Candler served a copyright notice to the website, Candler says, but it was back up in a matter of days after Carter served a counternotice swearing that the video was hers.
"In that counternotice defendant swore under penalty of perjury that she had a 'good faith belief' that" the video on sweetfacesjc's account was removed "due to mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled," Candler says.
"This statement is false," the complaint continues. "Defendant could not have had such a good faith belief, as she did not create the video and owns no rights to it."
Candler says that her attorneys sent letters and phone messages to Carter, all ignored, trying to get her to take the video down.
Alleging copyright infringement, misrepresentation and unfair competition, Candler wants damages and an order enjoining Carter from using or distributing the video.
She is represented by Naomi Gray with Harvey Siskind in San Francisco.