A German court in Hamburg ordered Google, Inc,’s YouTube to install new software in order to filter and prevent it’s users from uploading copyrighted works such as music videos. This is a huge win for GEMA (Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte), a German copyright organization representing up to 65,000 composers, lyricists, and music publishers.
The regional court in Hamburg required YouTube to remove seven of the 12 videos clips which GEMA alleged infringed copyrights. GEMA accused YouTube of taking no legal responsibility for the uploaded content on the website but profiting financially from the infringed works. The court established that although YouTube currently has a system for copyright holders to identify infringed works by flagging content — YouTube must setup a preemptive system wherein users cannot upload videos when using certain keywords, i.e. an artist’s name or song title. Additionally, the court did not consider YouTube as the copyright violator but it does bear a limited responsibility to setup the filters.
The ruling can be appealed but no comments from Google officials have been made about such a plan.
According to the Wall Street Journal, GEMA stated that:
“YouTube has to take reasonable measures to protect our repertoire, it cannot simply pass on that obligation” to the [copyright holders]”.
Sounds fair unless Germany decides to order unreasonable or disproportionate expectations for internet sites to police infringement. I feel that YouTube does a pretty good job removing copyright infringed works fairly quickly. The burden should be on the copyright owners to police their own goods, especially when there’s an easy flag system put into place already. Moreover, these new court ordered filters YouTube must install are superfluous — if someone wanted to use copyrighted video or song they would simply name it something other than the artist’s name or song title upon upload.
Tim Bukher’s comment: Compare this to the recent 2nd Circuit decision in Viacom v. YouTube where the Court seemed incredulous that YouTube had insufficient “red flag” knowledge of copyright violations on its service to disqualify it from Section 512(c) immunity. Perhaps on remand the SDNY will make an order similar to the German court…
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