Judgment of the ECJ: YouTube is not liable for copyright infringements

The European Court of Justice has examined two cases of copyright infringement and has ruled that platforms such as YouTube are not directly responsible for the illegal upload of protected content by users.

With the sheer endless amount of uploads, it’s hardly surprising that platforms like YouTube are also struggling with some copyright violations. Just recently, YouTube announced the development of new tools to take more targeted action against copyright infringement. However, it is often unclear who is liable for the illegal upload: the platform or the user? The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has now answered this question in two cases. Basically, it is about the question of whether on the part of the operator a “public reproduction” of protected content takes place. The court ruled that this was not automatically the case:

In the current state of EU law, the operators of internet platforms generally do not publicly reproduce the copyrighted content that is illegally uploaded by users. However, the operators reproduce this content publicly in violation of copyright law if, beyond the mere provision of the platforms, they help to provide the public with access to the content.

Music and books uploaded illegally

The first of the two cases examined by the court concerns the German music producer Frank Peterson, who sued YouTube in 2008. Several phonograms were uploaded to the platform, the rights of which he holds and which were distributed without his permission. The court also examined the case of the Elsevier publishing house, which brought proceedings against Cyando, the company behind the Uploaded.net platform. Several medical books to which Elsevier holds rights were uploaded to the platform in 2013.

The platform is liable in the event of knowledge or participation

The court ruled that platforms like YouTube are not liable for illegal uploads if they are responsible for simply providing them. The operators are not allowed to have any knowledge of the content. Insofar as a platform has to act itself so that customers can gain access to illegally uploaded protected content, it is responsible. However, if the infringement of copyrights occurs without the knowledge and cooperation of the platform, it is not liable for this either. As soon as YouTube and Co. are made aware of the protected content by the rights holder, it must be deleted immediately. If they do not do this, legal action can be taken against them.

Should the platform provide its users with certain aids to distribute protected content, it is responsible for the public reproduction of this. This is also the case if the operators know or ought to know that their platform is being used for these purposes – for example if a business model has been chosen that entices the user to do so.

New EU copyright reform will come into force in August

The court’s decisions are based on guidelines from 2000 and 2001 in effect at the time of the two cases. However, different rules apply to future cases of copyright infringement. Because the copyright reform passed in 2019 provides for new regulations for operators. In future, they will have to obtain the consent of the rights holder for content uploaded by their users. The much controversial upload filters can also be a way for platforms to prevent the uploading of protected content. However, there is a risk that legal content will also be removed. The copyright reform is expected to take effect at the beginning of August.

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Source: OnlineMarketing.de by onlinemarketing.de.

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