The main European court has partly sided with YouTube over copyrighted works illegally posted online in a case that touches on “deep divisions” in the way the Internet is used.
The case, Frank Peterson and Elsevier Inc. v Google LLC et al., was first brought by German music producer Peterson against the YouTube platform in German courts in 2009.
In 2008 a number of recordings of songs from the album A winter symphony by singer Sarah Brightman – to whom he claimed to own various rights – were posted on YouTube without his permission. Songs from live performances from Brightman’s tour have also been uploaded.
Peterson then sought an injunction against Google and YouTube.
An appeals court then ruled that although the platform “did not demonstrate the requisite intention to be liable as a participant” and “was unaware of the specific acts of infringement”, YouTube was responsible. as an “interferer” (StÃ¶rerin) because “although she was informed of illegal activities related to these works, she did not immediately remove the content in question or block access to this content”.
However, the headlines of this week’s court documents make it clear: âAs it stands, online platform operators themselves do not disclose illegally released copyright-protected content to the public. online by users of these platforms.
“However, these operators are making such communication in violation of copyright when they contribute, beyond the mere provision of these platforms, to provide access to this content to the public.”
The interpretation seems to be that if YouTube and others do not take action if they are made aware of such matters, they can be held accountable.
The court also noted that its ruling was based on legislation before the reforms to Article 17 of the Copyright Directive entered into force in 2019.
This leaves the possibility that future interpretations made by EU courts may take a different line.
The long-standing dispute has been referred to the EU Court of Justice and in a detailed legal assessment of the case published last year Advocate General Henrik Saugmandsgaard Ãe said the case revolved around the “extremely sensitive issue of the liability of online platform operators with regard to copyrighted works illegally uploaded to their platforms by their users.
“This issue is characterized by deep divisions. For some, online platforms allow large-scale copyright infringements, from which their operators profit to the detriment of rights holders, which justifies imposing on them extensive monitoring obligations. content posted on these platforms by users For others, imposing such surveillance obligations on these operators would considerably affect their activity and the rights of these users and would undermine freedom of expression and creativity online â , wrote the Attorney General.
The preliminary ruling concluded that YouTube was not directly responsible for the copyright infringement on the platform because it had “put in place various technological measures in order to prevent and put an end to copyright violations on its platform “.
In a statement, a YouTube spokesperson said, “YouTube is a leader in copyright and supports rights holders who receive their fair share. That is why we have invested in cutting edge tools in copyright matters that have created a whole new source of revenue for the industry. In the last 12 months alone, we have paid out $ 4 billion to the music industry, of which more than 30 % come from monetized user-generated content. âÂ®