It’s not that German’s don’t like YouTube. In fact, it seems that they like it all too well, especially when it comes to uploading copyrighted content. And this proclivity for posting music and videos that are verboten has landed this popular sharing website in hot water. GEMA, an agency that represents approximately 64,000 German singers and songwriters, recently filed suit against Google-owned YouTube concerning 12 illegally-uploaded videos belonging to their artists. Although record labels everywhere are probably scoffing at the small number, it seems that the German courts found their case compelling, because they not only heard the suit; they also ruled in GEMA’s favor.
YouTube is well known as the site where users can post videos of absolutely anything in a bid to find their 15 minutes (or more likely 15 seconds) of fame. Who knows how phenoms like “Chocolate Rain”, “Will it Blend? – Justin Bieber”, “Cat Plays Piano”, or “Auto Tune Bed Intruder Song” gained such notoriety. In this era of limited attention spans and infinite interconnectivity, trends come and go pretty quickly, and some of the fastest occur via YouTube. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of people using the platform to post the work of others rather than something they created on their own. And this is where companies like GEMA tend to take umbrage.
Of course, YouTube has long maintained that they bear no burden of responsibility for what their users choose to upload; they are merely hosting external content and users are solely accountable for anything they post. To an extent the German court agreed, conceding that users posting copyrighted materials were to blame for their illegal activities. However, they also found that the company would have to take some amount of responsibility for ensuring that their service wasn’t used in illegal manner, taking some of the burden off content owners.
Up until now, YouTube has been more or less willing to field complaints from angry copyright holders, insomuch as they might remove content in question. And while they created software that would allow artists and licensors to track and flag abuses for YouTube’s perusal, it now seems that they must do even more. According to the court ruling, YouTube now has to remove videos that are in violation of copyright laws when they are informed of their presence. But it goes even further; they also have to stop future postings once they have been notified and given keywords. For example, suppose a copyrighted video of “Gotye – Somebody That I Used to Know” was illegally uploaded and flagged by the copyright holder. YouTube would now be responsible for ensuring that other videos with this band or song name never made it to public view.
In short, they are being called upon to put filters in place, something that they have tried very hard to avoid up to this point in an attempt to keep their service unrestricted for users. They did get one boon, which is that they will not be forced to retroactively remove videos of a certain name. But it’s fairly likely that they will appeal the ruling anyway. After all, if they allow such a precedent to be set in Germany they will almost certainly be targeted for the same treatment in other countries across the globe, and it could have a dramatic effect on other internet enterprises, as well. If the ruling stands, they might as well just pack it in and start selling the very auto-tuning music equipment that has been the subject of so many videos, because YouTube won’t be worth much once it’s under the thumb of the record labels.
Author: Sarah is a contributing writer for Unique Squared, where you can find the best pro audio and DJ equipment, like QSC K12 speakers, at the lowest prices