YouTube not liable for copyright infringement, rules German court

The Higher Regional Court Munich (OLG) decided on Thursday (January 28) that YouTube cannot be held liable for copyright infringements on its service in the market.

The judges found that the sole responsibility for infringements lies with individual uploaders.

The decision is a crucial one, as it means YouTube will not be held financially accountable in Germany when works protected by copyright are violated on its platform.

UPDATE: A YouTube spokesperson told MBW: “We’ve always been open to working with GEMA – we already have agreements with more than 20 collecting societies across Europe to ensure that rightsholders are remunerated. Unfortunately, German artists and authors are missing out – but our door is always open and we hope to find a solution together with GEMA, instead of through the courts.”

“Today’s decision is most regrettable. The court has obviously followed YouTube’s argument that it is only the uploaders who are responsible for the contents that are retrievable via the service”, commented Dr Tobias Holzmuller, General Counsel at GEMA.

“We consider this to be wrong. Furthermore, the decision is not justified from an economic perspective, as it continues to enable YouTube to generate high advertising revenues without passing them on to musical authors.”

GEMA has long demanded a more ‘adequate’ payment to songwriters and publishers for the use of their repertoire on YouTube.

“This decision is most regrettable… It is not justified from an economic perspective.”

Dr Tobias Holzmuller, GEMA

YouTube has not paid GEMA any licence fees for the use of music on its video platform to date, despite the Google-owned company turning over approximately $9bn a year.

Thomas Theune, Director of Broadcasting and Online at GEMA, added: “In our opinion, YouTube exploits works retrievable via the service. This type of exploitation is subject to licence fee

“YouTube is not only a technical service provider, it actually conducts itself like a music service. As a consequence, YouTube should, just like a music service, obtain licences and not pass the responsibility on to the uploaders”.

The OLG decision is not yet legally binding, points out GEMA, with an appeals process already granted.

Holzmüller explains the next steps as follows: “We shall study the reasons for the decision and then probably launch an appeal”.

GEMA represents the copyright of more than 70,000 members (composers, lyricists and music publishers) in Germany, and more than two million copyright owners globally.Music Business Worldwide

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