YouTube Loses Court Battle in Germany
YouTube is no stranger to navigating the difficulties imposed by the conflict between copyright protection and its business model. While in the US, courts have ruled that YouTube’s lack of actual knowledge regarding the video users post provides a defense against lawsuits, other countries have different ideas. Germany in particular has ruled against YouTube in the past and it looks like the Hamburg court has done it again. The court has ruled that YouTube needs to be more active in hunting down pirated videos and preventing itself from being used as a premiere vehicle for copyright infringement.
The plaintiff, GEMA, is a German equivalent of ASCAP that represents more than 60,000 artists. They have been in conflict with YouTube since 2009 when they sought to charge fees for the use of their music which YouTube claimed were impractical. GEMA sued YouTube on the basis of twelve songs, and the Hamburg court found that YouTube had failed to meet its duty to combat copyright infringement and ordered YouTube to remove any videos that include those seven songs and install a filter that would prevent users from uploading those songs in the future.
GEMA is quite clear that it is not really interested in punishing YouTube, but rather wants to use this court case and the threat of future cases as a tool at the negotiating table. GEMA wants YouTube to pay a fee for use of the works that’s based on the number of views each video receives and the advertising revenue generated, while YouTube feels that such a model is too burdensome and wants a fixed price arrangement.
I tend to be leery of people using the threat of a lawsuit as a tool because it prevents laws from attaining their intended purpose. However, this may be a case where YouTube and its parent Google “hold the key to the jailhouse door,” as they might just have to behave in good faith at the negotiating table. On the other hand, perhaps this is a case of GEMA ruthlessly extorting YouTube for cash they don’t deserve. As I’m obviously not privy to the financial details of YouTube or GEMA, I can’t tell you which side is being reasonable here.