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YouTube loses a case in Germany to collective society Gema

25 April, 2012

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: Youtube verliert im Fall gegen GEMA

A German court decided on 20 April 2012 that YouTube was indirectly liable for the copyrighted content posted by its users in a case brought to court in 2010 by the royalty collective society Gema.

In this case, the defendant argued that it was not liable as it only provided the hosting platform for its users. Moreover, it had taken all reasonable measures to prevent copyright infringements.

The Hamburg court however considered that, by having provided its video platform, YouTube had contributed to the copyright infringement of 7 videos and was thus liable for not stopping the infringing acts as “disturber”, but not as an offender. Also, the website had not done enough to take down of the posted copyrighted clips "without delay" after the claimant had informed it about the copyright infringements. The court ruled that the site had to install, besides its already existing ContentID systems, keyword-based filters that would detect when users tried to post music clips whose rights are held by Gema.

Yet, judge Heiner Steeneck considered his ruling favoured both parties as GEMA had also asked for YouTube to take responsibility for videos uploaded in the past, which was denied. “YouTube isn’t the perpetrator here, it’s those people who illegally upload songs. That’s why YouTube doesn’t have to search all videos uploaded in the past. It only has to help detect videos from the moment it is alerted about possible violations,” said Steeneck.

"Today's ruling confirms that YouTube as a hosting platform cannot be obliged to control the content of all videos uploaded to the site," said a spokesperson for YouTube who added that the website remained “committed to finding a solution to the music licensing issue in Germany that will benefit artists, composers, authors, publishers and record labels, as well as the wider YouTube community."

This decision is not yet final and can be appealed to the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg and further on to the German Federal Supreme Court. Neither YouTube, nor Gema has taken any decision yet on whether to appeal the decision.

Copyright obligations of a video portal operator - Judgment in the lawsuit against YouTube GEMA before the District Court of Hamburg (only in German, 20.04.2012)

YouTube loses court battle over music clips (20.04.2012)

YouTube Liable For Copyright Infringements, Court Rules (20.04.2012)

GEMA vs YouTube - what the Hamburg court really said... (21/04.2012)

The songs that Youtube is obliged to delete



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