YouTube could be held liable for illegal downloads, German court rules
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 reached this conclusion following advice from the EU’s highest court. TorrentFreak reports that several liability suits will now be sent to lower courts to decide whether damages are warranted in each case. Several lawsuits have been filed against YouTube and Uploaded over copyright-infringing content that ended up on their platforms.
Music producer Frank Peterson has sued YouTube and Google for making his music available without permission. German courts were undecided on whether the platforms themselves could be held liable in copyright infringement cases. The Federal Court of Justice sought advice from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
The CJEU has been asked to decide under what conditions online services carry out a “communication to the public” regarding piracy. The CJEU clarified that platforms can be held responsible for illegally downloaded content if they fail to take appropriate action. Last year, Germany implemented the new European copyright directive which requires online services to ensure that infringing content cannot be re-uploaded once it is deleted. If the platforms fail to prevent repeat infringements, they can be held liable in German courts.
Download platform operators could also be required to disclose the identity of users who commit violations, including their email addresses. A YouTube spokesperson said the company is “confident in the systems” it has built to fight copyright infringement and ensure rights holders receive their fair share.
As for Frank Peterson’s case, the case will come back to the higher regional courts in Hamburg and Munich for reconsideration. Fans uploaded Sarah Brightman videos to YouTube in 2008, which Peterson produced. Peterson demanded the removal of the videos and damages for illegally uploaded material. A final decision on this case will take into account new guidelines from Europe’s highest court.