YouTube could face royalties bill after losing court case

German court says video site is responsible for uploaded content

YouTube could be hit with a massive royalties bill after losing a court case in Germany over music videos.

The video giants lost a legal battle in Hamburg yesterday (April 20), reports the BBC, after the German performance rights organisation GEMA successfully argued that they had not done enough to stop copyrighted clips being posted online.

The court, who made their ruling on seven of the 12 music clips that GEMA based their case upon, said that YouTube are responsible for content that is uploaded by its users, and has asked them to install filters to detect if videos with copyright held by GEMA are posted online.

If enforced, the ruling could lead to YouTube having to stump up the cash for a substantial royalties bill, and could also significantly reduce the speed at which videos are uploaded to the site as they would need to be checked for copyright first.

YouTube, who said they took no responsibility for what users of the site did, stated: “Today’s ruling confirms that YouTube as a hosting platform cannot be obliged to control the content of all videos uploaded to the site. We remain committed to finding a solution to the music licensing issue in Germany that will benefit artists, composers, authors, publishers and record labels, as well as the wider YouTube community.”

Previously, GEMA have shown a willingness to take websites to task if they believe they are using their music without paying royalties. Rapidshare were given instructions to start filtering songs uploaded by their users in 2009 following action from the German body, while streaming service Grooveshark pulled out of the country after claiming that the licensing rates set by GEMA made it impossible to run a profitable business.

In August last year, meanwhile, YouTube ended a four-year legal battle by signing a deal with the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), which represents over 3,000 independent music publishers. The agreement ensured that they would pay royalties generated from views of user-generated videos that contain music written by artists represented by the NMPA.