YouTube Could Be Held Liable for Illegal Uploads, German Court Says

YouTube Could Be Held Liable for Illegal Uploads, German Court Says

Photo Credit: Leon Bublitz

Platforms like YouTube could be held liable for illegal content uploaded by users, according to a German court ruling.

The German Federal Court of Justice made this conclusion following advice from the EU’s top court. TorrentFreak reports that several liability lawsuits will now be sent back to lower courts to decide if damages are warranted in each case. Several lawsuits have been filed against YouTube and Uploaded over copyright infringing content ending up on their platforms.

Music producer Frank Peterson sued both YouTube and Google for making his music available without permission. German courts were undecided whether the platforms themselves could be held liable in copyright infringement cases. The Federal Court of Justice requested guidance from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The CJEU was asked to decide under what conditions online services make a ‘communication to the public’ when it comes to piracy. The CJEU clarified that platforms can be held liable for illegaly uploaded content if they fail to take appropriate action. Last year, Germany implemented the new EU Copyright Directive which requires online services to ensure infringing content cannot be reuploaded once it is taken down. If platforms fail to prevent repeat infringements, they can be held liable in German courts.

Operators of upload platforms could also be obligated to disclose the identity of users who commit infringements, including their email addresses. A YouTube spokesperson says the company is “confident in the systems” it has built to fight copyright infringement and ensure rights holders will receive their fair share.

As for Frank Peterson’s case, the matter will return to the Higher Regional Courts of Hamburg and Munich for re-examination. Fans uploaded Sarah Brightman videos to YouTube in 2008, which Peterson produced. Peterson demanded the removal of the videos and to be paid damages for the illegally uploaded material. A final ruling on this case will take the new guidance from Europe’s highest court into account.