YouTube appeals German content filtering verdict

Both YouTube and the music royalty collecting agency GEMA are appealing the verdict

YouTube and German music royalty collecting society GEMA have appealed the outcome of a lawsuit filed by GEMA against YouTube, in which a German court ordered YouTube to inspect the titles of uploaded videos to filter out potentially copyright-infringing content.

The two organizations said on Monday that they are appealing an April 20 verdict from the Hamburg District Court.

The court ruled that YouTube is liable when users upload videos containing copyright-protected music to the site without permission -- but only after they have been informed by the copyright holder. The court said that when YouTube receives a complaint from the owner of the copyright in a music recording, it must filter out videos of which the title contains both the song-title and recording artist of the disputed recording.

YouTube decided to appeal the verdict with the Higher Regional Court in Hamburg on Monday, said Mounira Latrache, a spokeswoman for YouTube Germany.

According to YouTube this ruling also makes it much more difficult for websites that host user-generated content to operate.

"Even though the court confirmed that YouTube is a hosting platform, the ruling to implement filtering would be damaging for innovation and freedom of expression online," Latrache said.

YouTube already uses a system called Content-ID that allows copyright holders to search for copyright-protected material by comparing uploaded videos with a reference video. The system works like a digital fingerprint and if an uploaded video is detected rights holders can decide to automatically block the uploaded video, leave it alone, or place advertisements next to it and share the revenue with YouTube.

GEMA also appealed the verdict at the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg on Monday, the last date an appeal could be filed, saying it is looking for legal certainty for its members and demanding maximum transparency in ongoing negotiations.

YouTube and GEMA continued negotiations on a licensing agreement after the recent verdict, but GEMA said it rapidly became clear that such a deal could not be achieved before the appeals deadline.

The organizations also disputed whether they should be obliged to make their negotiations public, with GEMA wanting to keep its members informed of progress and YouTube saying it had no legal obligation to disclose information until a deal was reached.

GEMA said transparency is crucial for the royalty collecting society and is one of its most important negotiation objectives.

The two parties are still continuing their talks to find a solution in Germany that will benefit artists, composers, authors, publishers and record labels as well as the YouTube community, the video site said.

GEMA appealed the case because the parties did not reach an agreement before the appeals deadline, said Alexander Wolf, counsel of GEMA. He added that when a deal is negotiated with YouTube a tariff will be set that applies to all user generated content sites in Germany.

Both appeals will be dealt with in one lawsuit, said Latrache. The court has not yet set a date for the appeals hearing.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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