Google’s YouTube won its copyright infringement case after the European Union’s top court ruled that internet platforms are not accountable for users uploading unlicensed works unless the platforms fail to take quick steps to remove or limit access to the content.
The case marks the latest development in a long-running battle between Frank Peterson, a music producer, who sued YouTube and Google in Germany in 2008 over the uploading to YouTube by users in 2008 of several phonograms to which he held the rights. And in a second case, publishing company Elsevier filed a lawsuit in Germany against file-hosting service Cyando after its customers illegally posted multiple Elsevier works to its platform in 2013.
“As things stand, operators of online platforms do not, in principle, have communication with the public about copyright-protected content illegally posted online by users of those platforms,” said the EU Court of Justice.
However, those operators do make such communication in breach of copyright where they contribute, beyond merely making those platforms available, to giving access to such content to the public,” the judges added.
According to the EU court, platforms may also be held accountable if they do not implement appropriate technological measures to combat copyright violations by their users or if they provide facilities on their platforms for illicit content distribution. Existing EU rules protect YouTube and its competitors from copyright liability if they are notified of breaches and remove them.
For the first time in two decades, the EU updated its copyright rules recently this year to aid its creative industries, adopting a critical provision known as Article 17. This demands installing filters on YouTube, Facebook’s Instagram, and other sharing platforms to prevent people from posting copyrighted materials.
The European Commission has also suggested a much wider Digital Services Act, which imposes strict responsibilities on big online companies, online platforms, and hosting services, with fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s revenue if they fail to comply.