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youtube_logo.jpgAccording to a German court in Hamburg, Google's YouTube can be held liable for damages when it hosts copyrighted videos without the copyright holder's permission. This case centered around three music videos by classical crossover soprano Sarah Brightman, but this ruling will likely have far-reaching consequences for YouTube's operations in Germany. YouTube will now have to block access to these videos and disclose how often its users accessed these streams. YouTube will also have to pay damages based on the number of plays. Google plans to appeal the ruling.

The German court ruled that simply asking users whether they have the legal rights to the material they are about to upload does not relieve the company of its legal obligations.

"The court concluded that YouTube was treating content uploaded by its users as its own. That leads to a more strenuous duty to check out the content. The court came to the conclusion YouTube did not fulfill this."

The complaint against YouTube was originally filed in October 2009. At that time, Google argued that it "works closely with many thousands of copyright holders worldwide to make sure that they can manage their rights on our video platform. Our state-of-the-art Content ID tools go beyond what the law recommends by empowering rights holders to block, authorize or monetize their videos on YouTube in a way that is simple and straightforward."

In this case, though, it seems as if Google's Content ID tools failed. In their complaint, the plaintiffs argued that they repeatedly asked YouTube to take the videos in question down but never received a reply from YouTube.

In an interview with German news agency dpa, a spokesperson for the court today noted that "the court concluded that YouTube was treating content uploaded by its users as its own. That leads to a more strenuous duty to check out the content. The court came to the conclusion YouTube did not fulfill this."


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