German Court case fails to settle YouTube copyright controversy

A German court has ruled that YouTube must erase seven contested videos over copyright issues. However, the decision has failed to settle the protracted copyright row raging on the Internet. Hamburg's State Court ruled on Friday that YouTube will have to take seven videos offline, including "Rivers of Babylon" by Boney M.

The verdict strengthens the position of Germany's royalty collections body GEMA which has been battling Google-owned YouTube over copyright issues for years.

The last agreement expired in 2009 and the conflicting parties have since been at loggerheads over the proper method to collect copyright fees.  However, Friday's verdict is not the landmark ruling which some had hoped would once and for all settle the contentious issue of copyright protection in the Internet.

Limited culpability
The Hamburg court decided that Internet platforms like YouTube are not directly liable for the breach of copyrights committed by users uploading protected material. However, the platform is now obliged to "deactivate immediately any illegal videos" once alerted by those holding the copyright.

Notably, the ruling does not oblige YouTube to check all content that has already been uploaded to its site – a key GEMA demand.

The judges said YouTube was not the main culprit because it does not upload or steal any content. Rather it facilitated the copyright breaches by offering and operating the online platform.

In order to prevent further copyright breaches, the judges called on YouTube to employ specific software capable of detecting songs in videos.

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