Google ordered to shore up copyright filters on YouTube

Steven Loeb · April 21, 2012 · Short URL:

German court: YouTube not responsible for content uploaded by users; must do more to stop violations

It seems Google is not very popular in Europe these days. First it was a French agency questioning Google's privacy laws, then it was the Spanish Data Protect Authority taking the search giant to court over the right to be forgotten. Now, for the third time in as many months, Google has had to defend itself to a European country over content on its website.

On Friday, a judge in Hamburg court ordered Google to set up filters on its YouTube service in Germany to stop videos from being uploaded that contain copyrighted material.

The suit was filed in 2010 by copyright organization GEMA over 12 music videos that had been uploaded to the website containing copyrighted material. GEMA currently represents 64,000 members, including composers, lyricists and music publishers.

Google defended itself by saying YouTube has no legal responsibility for the content uploaded by its users, and maintained that the site checks, and blocks, content when users alert them about violations.

While YouTube currently offers software that the owners of material can use to identify recordings for which they hold the copyright, thus allowing them to alert flag the content, the court ordered that YouTube must also allow users to identify potential violations through keywords, for example the musician’s name, in order for them to be able to flag recordings they might otherwise have missed.

While the court did come down on GEMA’s side, the decision by the court was not completely against Google.

GEMA had also requested that Google go through all of its content to purge the website of copyrighted material. The court denied the request, as they found that it was the users, not YouTube, who were not violating copyright laws.

"The platform operator only has the obligation to block the video ... and take appropriate measures to hinder further rights violations after being notified about the copyright violation," the court said. "There is no obligation to control all videos already uploaded to the platform," it added.

Both sides are declaring themselves the winner in the decision.

"Our primary goal, the principle of liability for users of YouTube videos confirmed by the court, we have fully achieved. YouTube has to take reasonable measures to protect our repertoire, and this obligation cannot simply pass on the rights owner. This represents a major success for us,” Dr. Harald Heker, Chief Executive Officer of GEMA, said in a press release.

“Today’s ruling confirms that YouTube is a hosting platform and cannot be obliged to control all videos uploaded to the site,” Google told the New York Times. “The ruling is a partial success for the music industry in general, for our users as well as artists, composers, YouTube and other Web platforms in Germany.”

Google has the option of appealing the ruling, but it is so far unclear what its  next course of action will be.

Google did not return our request for comment

Update: In response to this article, a YouTube spokesperson told VatorNews:

"Today’s ruling confirms that YouTube as a hosting platform cannot be obliged to control the content of all videos uploaded to the site. We remain 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 court's interpretation of the EUCD would make it much more difficult for user generated content platforms to operate.  It would jeopardize not only YouTube but every other innovative service on the Internet that allows users to submit content by forcing them to implement filtering."

(Image source:

Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes