YouTuber Logan Paul is sued over 'suicide forest' video

The production company Planeless Pictures claims the fallout from a 2017 video caused Google to back out of a $3.5 million deal.

YouTuber Logan Paul.Steven Ferdman / Getty Images
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A production company is suing the YouTube star Logan Paul, claiming that fallout from a 2017 video he posted of a dead body in a Japanese "suicide forest" caused it to lose a multimillion-dollar licensing agreement with Google.

Planeless Pictures, in the suit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles, claims that the tech giant pulled out of a $3.5 million deal because of the video, according to court documents obtained by NBC News.

Paul, a YouTube star with nearly 23 million subscribers, began his career on the now-defunct six-second video app Vine, and, after Vine shuttered, moved to YouTube where he continued to grow his following. Recently, Paul has begun focusing on a boxing career and is slated to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. in February 2021.

Planeless Pictures was formed in 2016 with the specific purpose of producing a film with Paul, now 25, called "Airplane Mode."

The film was meant to be a parody of celebrity influencers, like Paul, with Paul playing a fictionalized version of himself, according to the documents. The suit claims that fellow influencers and social media celebrities like Paul's brother, Jake, were scheduled to appear in the film. Other names included Juanpa Zurita, Andrew Bachelor, Amanda Cerny, Nick Bateman, Vitaly Zdorovetskiy, Brittany Furlan, David Dobrik and Casey Neistat. The movie was released in 2019 on iTunes.

In December 2017, Planeless Pictures and Google, which owns YouTube, agreed that YouTube would promote and distribute "Airplane Mode," the document states.

Shortly afterward, Paul posted the now-infamous video. He and a group of friends were in Aokigahara, a forest at the base of Mount Fuji, nicknamed the "suicide forest" because of the large number of people who go there to end their lives.

A video he posted to YouTube of the forest showed the body of a man who appeared to have killed himself. The video had 6 million views in one day.

Paul faced swift backlash, including losing the ability to make money on his YouTube videos through advertisements — a punishment on the platform known as demonetization, according to the lawsuit. He also was removed from Google Preferred, one of Google's advertisement partnerships with creators. Google and YouTube also announced that they had put Paul's film "The Thinning: New World Order" on hold. The film was later released.

Paul apologized for the video in a written post and video on Twitter.

The lawsuit states that in the fallout from the video, Google ended its relationship with Planeless Pictures and did not pay the company the agreed-upon $3.5 million.

Planeless Pictures is seeking that Paul pay the $3.5 million as well as additional damages and attorneys fees, according to the suit.

Paul and attorneys for Planeless Pictures did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.