- Austria’s Puls 4 TV station is suing YouTube over unauthorised content on site
- Court in Vienna ruled YouTube has active role in spreading copyrighted content
- If upheld, ruling could be important landmark in redefining responsibility of sites like YouTube in the field of copyright protection
YouTube could be held partly liable for copyright breaches in videos uploaded by its users, an Austrian court has ruled.
In a ruling that may have far-reaching implications, Vienna’s commercial court said that YouTube played an active role in spreading such content and therefore could not claim the status of ‘neutral intermediary’.
Ploil-Boesch law firm is acting on behalf of Austria’s Puls 4 television station, which brought a case against YouTube in 2014 over the unauthorised presence of its content on the site.
YouTube could be held partly responsible for copyrighted content in videos uploaded by its users
Puls 4 and its lawyers say they’ve got evidence of YouTube’s complicity in spreading copyrighted content after hours and hours of analysing how the site works.
The court found YouTube’s ‘links, mechanisms for sorting and filtering, the generation of lists of particular categories, its analysis of users’ browsing habits and its tailor-made suggestions of content’ meant it could no longer claim to be a neutral intermediary.
‘YouTube must in future – through advance controls – ensure that no content that infringes copyright is uploaded,’ it added.
According to Puls 4, if the decision is upheld on appeal it could be an important landmark in defining the responsibility of sites like YouTube in the field of copyright protection.
The court found YouTube’s layout and algorithms to play an active part in spreading copyrighted content
Markus Breitenecker, head of Puls 4, said: ‘The media companies who call themselves social networks will have to recognise that they too have to take on responsibility for the content with which they earn their millions.’
Austrian media quoted YouTube as saying it takes copyright protection ‘very seriously’ and that it would study the judgement closely, while not ruling out an appeal.
The judgement comes as the European Union discusses possible reforms to copyright law to ensure news publishers and artists are better compensated for their work when it appears on online platforms.
Among the measures being considered in Brussels is forcing video-sharing sites like YouTube or Dailymotion to introduce technology to identify and delete songs or other audio-visual works which have been flagged by copyright holders.