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Hamburg court: Google must police YouTube content

GEMA notches up another copyright victory

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German composers and music publishers' society GEMA has notched a copyright victory in its long-running dispute with Google. A Hamburg court ruled that The Chocolate Factory is responsible for what it publishes, and may need to install filters on uploaded video material.

What's it all about?

GEMA summarised its case (in English) here last year. GEMA accused Google of dragging its feet and failing to come to a mutually agreeable licensing deal.

GEMA pointed out that its compulsory licence means it can’t close anybody down, or prevent them from using music. The society explained:

German law stipulates GEMA is obligated to grant every licensee, in other words also YouTube, the rights it administers.... GEMA cannot prevent the use of its rights if YouTube – like a large number of other users – would have adhered to the legally prescribed rules (depositing the disputed portion of the compensation into escrow).

But the nature of the compulsory licence doesn’t mean Google can take the mickey, either. GEMA says Google stalled negotiations on paying the creators, saving it costs, while reaping the advertising revenues from the content.

YouTube, however, decided to use the rights administered by GEMA without paying any royalties to GEMA – which, in GEMA's viewpoint, represents a violation of copyright law, and has even more substance in the case of Google, as large amounts of advertising revenue are generated with YouTube.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that ISPs can’t keep filters turned on 24x7 – this would violate users’ reasonable expectations of privacy. But it didn’t, as was widely misreported, mean filters were “illegal in Europe”. A service still has obligations over what it transmits.

Last March GEMA obliged RapidShare to be more pro-active in policing uploads for infringing material. This week it claimed it’s up to the challenge – and encouraged other cyberlockers to join it. ®

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