YouTube Doesn’t Have To Police Piracy Proactively, Court Rules

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A court in Hamburg, Germany, has ruled that YouTube is not required to actively monitor user uploads for pirated content. The court found that YouTube is not liable for what users upload, but did stress that Google's video platform has to do more to combat copyright infringement.

youtubefaceYouTube has been battling music rights group GEMA in several court cases for more than half a decade.

In one of the most prominent cases the music group, which claims to represent 70,000 artists, argued that YouTube is liable for the content its users upload. As such, they want Google’s video service to proactively monitor the site for possible infringements.

This liability argument was denied in 2012 by a lower court, but GEMA appealed the decision. Yesterday the Appeals Court in Hamburg announced its verdict, confirming the earlier ruling.

According to the court, YouTube has no obligation to actively police video content users submit to the site.

“YouTube is in basis not required to monitor the content they transmit or store, or to investigate circumstances that indicate illegal user activity,” the court states.

It’s not all good news for Google though. The court emphasized that YouTube has to do more to ensure that infringing content is barred.

“However, if a service provider is notified of a clear violation of the law, it must not only remove the content immediately, but also take precautions which ensure that no further infringements will be possible.”

YouTube previously argued that copyright holders can use its Content ID system to ensure that infringing files remain offline. However, GEMA is hesitant to use the system, which requires rightsholders to act.

GEMA is disappointed that the court didn’t confirm that YouTube is liable for its users, but sees the responsibility comments as a win.

“The ruling of the Court of Appeals shows that YouTube can not escape responsibility for copyright infringements, and that it can’t pass on all responsibility to the rights owner,” says GEMA CEO Harald Heker.

It’s unclear what extra measures YouTube should take, but German music industry law firm Rasch suggests that keyword filtering is a viable option.

The Hamburg court also ruled on a separate issue confirming that YouTube didn’t remove seven videos swiftly enough. In five other instances YouTube handled the cases correctly. Both Google and GEMA appealed the lower court’s decision, but both appeals were rejected.

Thus far the court has only announced the decision in an oral hearing. The full verdict will be released later this month and can still be appealed by both sides.


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