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German judge chides Google over YouTube freeloading

Teutonic songwriters' case kicks off

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A German judge thinks Google should do more to detect illegal uploads to its YouTube video service. He was ruling on a case last week brought by an alliance of composers and songwriters' performance rights societies led by Germany's GEMA.

GEMA and the other societies were in negotiations with Google that broke down in May. The alliance was seeking a cease-and-desist order against YouTube, which Judge Heiner Steeneck in Hamburg declined to grant. The case will continue in regular court.

YouTube is the world's default jukebox. Steeneck hinted that the thought that Google should take some responsibility for what users throw at it.

"There are some good reasons to think that YouTube indeed has some duty to take care of detecting illegal uploads…GEMA has the opportunity to ask for such a ruling in regular proceedings," he said.

Those of who you've used the amazing song-identification software Shazam at any time over the past ten years may wonder why Google doesn't rise to the challenge of employing song ID on a large, cloud-scale. Surely it's a technical issue Google's infrastructure can handle, and its clever engineers would love to solve.

Google has been employing content recognition for three years. Perhaps the same thought occurred to Judge Steeneck.

Royalty rates between broadcasters and performing rights societies are traditionally set by negotiation. YouTube these days is morphing into a fairly traditional broadcaster, but despite the fact that it's richer than most, the royalties it wants to pay out are anything but traditional. The return to the artists is pitiful; ironic 80s icon Rick Astley's Never Going To Give You Up was played 39 million times on YouTube, but he received $12 for his performance share - Astley didn't compose the song, so receives only a performer's share of the sound recording copyright.

Elsewhere Google has managed to do reach an amicable settlement. After some argy bargy, UK's PRS for Music finally settled on an undisclosed royalty rate a year ago. ®

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