YouTube Wins Key Copyright Ruling by Top European Court

·2 min read

YouTube and other internet platforms are not liable for copyright-protected content users upload as a general principle, the European Court of Justice ruled — a big win in the EU for the Google-owned video giant.

“As currently stands, operators of online platforms do not, in principle, themselves make a communication to the public of copyright-protected content illegally posted online by users of those platforms,” the EU Court of Justice said in the June 22 judgment.

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At the same time, the court said in the decision, an internet platform operator like YouTube may still be found liable for copyright infringement if it “has specific knowledge that protected content is available illegally on its platform and refrains from expeditiously deleting it or blocking access to it.”

Read the European Court of Justice’s ruling at this link.

The decision comes after the European Union last year introduced copyright reforms, including the adoption of a provision known as Article 17 — which would force YouTube and other user-generated content platforms to proactively block users from uploading copyrighted content. The directives have yet to be adopted by many European states. Under current EU rules, YouTube and other companies are not liable for copyright violations if they remove infringing content promptly after they are notified about it (similar to protections granted under the U.S.’s DMCA law).

In response to the ruling, a YouTube rep noted that the company has claimed it paid more than $4 billion to the music industry over the past 12 months and that 30% of that came from user-uploaded videos.

“YouTube is a leader in copyright and supports rights holders being paid their fair share,” YouTube said in a statement. “That’s why we’ve invested in state-of-the-art copyright tools which have created an entirely new revenue stream for the industry.”

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries. The ruling by the court stemmed from a lawsuit filed in Germany by music producer Frank Peterson against YouTube over user uploads of his copyright-protected recordings in 2008, as well as a second case in which publishing company Elsevier sued file-sharing service Cyando in 2013, alleging copyright infringement. A German federal court sought advice from the European Court of Justice, which ruled on both cases on Tuesday.

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