YouTube 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, the music group demanded Google’s video service to pay 0.375 euro cents per view for a selection of copyrighted music videos.
Before the weekend the Higher Regional Court of Munich announced its verdict in the case, resulting in a clear win for Google. According to the court YouTube is not liable for the infringing material uploaded by its users.
The verdict, which confirmed a ruling from a lower court last summer, comes as a disappointment to GEMA. The music rights group believes that services such as YouTube are profiting from piracy.
“Today’s decision is most regrettable. The court has obviously followed YouTube’s argument that it is only the uploaders who are responsible for the contents that are retrievable via the service,” says Tobias Holzmüller, GEMA’s General Counsel.
“We consider this to be wrong. Furthermore, the decision is not justified from an economic perspective, as it continues to enable YouTube to generate high advertising revenues without passing them on to musical authors,” he adds.
The court’s decision is in line with the safe harbor principle which holds that user-generated content services are automatically not responsible for the actions of their users.
However, in recent months various music industry groups have called on lawmakers to reconsider this position. The European music group IFPI, for example, argued that these sites and services must obtain proper licenses.
In line with GEMA, IFPI chief executive Frances Moore previously called out YouTube for not playing fair, accusing it of benefiting from piracy.
“It is true that artists and record producers are not being paid fairly for the use of their music. This is because user upload platforms, such as SoundCloud and YouTube, are taking advantage of exemptions from copyright laws that simply should not apply to them,” Moore said.
“There should be clarification of the application of ‘safe harbors’ to make it explicit that services that distribute and monetize music do not benefit from them.”
GEMA says it’s reviewing the decision from the Higher Regional Court Munich, which it expects to appeal in the near future.