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French court: YouTube has done 'enough' to avoid copyright liability

Google not responsible for filtering vids uploaded to site – ruling

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The Tribunal de Grande Instance said that Google had made enough of an effort to remove copyrighted content that had been uploaded by YouTube users which the biggest TV company in France held rights for when told about the material's existence. The efforts made were sufficient to remove Google from liability for that infringement, according to reports by news agency Reuters and the New York Times.

"[Google] is not responsible in principle for the video content on its site; only the users of the site are," the French court said, according to the Reuters report. "It has no obligation to police the content before it is put online as long as it informs users that posting television shows, music videos, concerts or advertisements without prior consent of the owner is not allowed."

EU law protects service providers from liability for material that they neither create nor monitor but simply store or pass on to users of their service. Under the E-Commerce Directive, service providers are generally not responsible for the activity of customers. Service providers are not liable for infringement via their services if they do not have "actual knowledge" or an awareness of the illegal activity or having obtained such knowledge "acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information".

The Directive also contains a provision that states that member states must not put service providers under any obligation to police illegal activity on its service. It is implemented in the UK by the E-Commerce Regulations.

TF1 had claimed that Google was responsible for filtering all content uploaded to its video-sharing website YouTube and that it was owed more than €140 million in damages for copyright infringement from the internet giant. TF1 claimed that because Google had made the copyrighted content it owned the rights to accessible on YouTube, Google was liable for the damages. However, the French court rejected the company's claims and ordered it to pay Google €80,000 to cover legal costs.

Google said the ruling was "a victory for everyone who uses the Web."

"Every day, hundreds of millions of people use computers and mobile devices, tablets and televisions to freely exchange ideas and information," Christophe Muller, head of YouTube partnerships in Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in a Google blog. "After this decision, these creators can be secure to post their materials on YouTube and other platforms and we can host their content without fearing a giant liability." "The end result will be more videos posted on the Net, more revenue generated for creative artists, and more exposure to a global audience for these artists," Muller added.

TF1 said the decision was "surprising in several respects" and that it would consider whether to appeal, according to the New York Times report.

In April, a German court ordered YouTube to pro-actively use its 'Content ID' system to prevent the spread of copies of content that it knows infringes on copyright rather than rely purely on rights holders using the system to inform them about instances of infringement. It also ordered the video-sharing company to install a filter system in order to check whether videos newly uploaded by users infringe on copyright holders' rights.

YouTube's Content ID technology identifies content that music publishers own rights to. Rights holders provide YouTube with copies of the works they want YouTube to reference on the video-sharing site and the technology compares uploaded files with the content provided by rights holders. When a match is identified rights holders can choose whether to block the use of the content, track its use by leaving it up or elect to take a share of the ad revenues generated around the video's use.

German Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights (GEMA) had argued that YouTube was liable for infringing 12 works belonging to artists it represents. YouTube had argued that it was not liable for any copyright infringement by users but the Hamburg court ruled that the company had failed to act quickly enough to remove seven of the works when it had been notified of the existence of the illegal material. The case relating to the other five works was dismissed.

Copyright © 2012, Out-Law.com

Out-Law.com is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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