Big First Step? Germany Tells YouTube to Start Installing Filters

If there’s one thing that YouTube absolutely loathes, it would be aggressive filtering.

Which is funny, because that’s exactly what major media companies want.  And with some estimates pegging music videos at nearly 40 percent of total YouTube traffic, that group definitely includes labels and publishers.

Have fun battling the DMCA in the US, but in Germany, the story is now completely different.  Ahead of the weekend, Hamburg court judge Heiner Steeneck ruled that YouTube must proactively install filters to prevent unauthorized uploads of certain music videos, instead of relying on post-upload takedown procedures.  That includes expansions beyond current systems like ContentID into areas like keyword filtering and blocks.

The decision represents a massive victory for GEMA, a royalty collections society with a tough and difficult reputation when it comes to rights licensing.   Unsurprisingly, GEMA was the group that brutishly forced this through the German court system, though this isn’t quite the bloody scalp raised in the air – yet.  Google-owned YouTube is planning an appeal (of course), and the company has not been pegged with any third-party copyright violations for past issues.  “Today’s ruling confirms that YouTube is a hosting platform and cannot be obliged to control all videos uploaded to the site,” Google lawyers asserted.

Actually, this is more like a serious victory for rights owners, and goes far beyond GEMA (if it ultimately stands).  Part of the reason is that the world gets to see what a fully-implemented, more serious filtering system would look like on a platform like YouTube.

It could be a sloppy experiment.  One argument is that broad-based filters can never be effective, simply because of the sheer volume and variants of the content involved.  That includes some sharp criticism over keyword filtering, which can deliver a high rate of misses.  But the broader argument that containment is ineffective is actually full of holes – and, may be ignoring the rather effective controls YouTube has against pornography, including highly illegal forms.

5 Responses

  1. Ramie

    The company Autonomy, owned by HP, has software that could do this easily.

  2. Jan Van Dam

    how can Google say, “we can’t be responsible for the user generated content on the Youtube site”? that’s crazy. eBay has to block hitler memorabilia and all sites have a responsibility to block child porn. They also have a responsibility to make sure that users own the copyrights and rights to the content. They knew what they were getting into when they bought YouTube and now Germany is standing up for artists, labels and intellectual property rights.

    The artists and labels need to be paid. Music isn’t free and I’m glad that Germany is leading the way. Hopefully the US is next. It’s only a matter of time before the US cracks down on this theft and enforces the current laws on the books.

    • alex

      I don’t agree at all that Germany is leading the way. I live in Berlin and you can’t watch any music videos on Youtube. It’s terrible. Record companies are making lots of money from Youtube streams now, but not in Germany. The public are losing out; the record labels are losing out. I don’t see how this is a good thing at all.

  3. alex

    so it’s not enough that they use contentid to identify the audio and video content; GEMA now want them to filter keywords. So if someone posts a video talking about Lady Gaga and tags it as such, that will be blocked.

    I think GEMA are desperately tryig to hold on to their position and Youtube represents a threat because they can pay rights-holders directly (as they do in other countries). GEMA wants everyone to pay them and then they decide who is owed what.

  4. Versus

    It’s about time. Why aren’t ASCAP, BMI, SESAC demanding similar strong filtering?

    – V