In an opening order, a court in Vienna, Austria, has decreed that YouTube can be held responsible for users’ copyright infringements. The video service platform is not seen as an impartial intermediary and ought to do more to prevent infringing uploads. The judgment, which is not yet lawfully enacted, is a victory for local television channel Puls 4 but YouTube hints that, if it stands, the company will naturally appeal.
YouTube is known to be a hotbed for creators. Simultaneously, however, it’s also repeatedly used to upload copyrighted material without permission.
While copyright holders can give takedown notices to eliminate infringing material, an initial ruling by the Commercial Court in Vienna has determined it will not suffice.
The ruling follows on the back of a complaint from local television channel Puls 4. Following a thorough review of YouTube’s functionalities, the Court finalized that YouTube has a responsibility to prevent third parties from uploading infringing content.
Defending itself, YouTube reasoned that it’s a neutral hosting provider under the terms of the E-Commerce Act.
But, the Commercial Court disagreed, saying that YouTube takes various motivated actions to organize and optimize how videos are shown. These actions make YouTube more than a neutral hosting server.
“Through the connections, sorting, filtering and linking, in particular by creating tables of contents according to predefined categories, determining the surfing behavior of users and creating a tailor-made surfing proposal, offering help etc, YouTube leaves on the role of a neutral intermediary and therefore cannot claim the host provider privilege,” the Court declared.
Consequently, YouTube will have to take measure to make sure that no copyright-infringing videos are uploaded hereafter. It sounds similar to the upload filters which are part of the EU’s planned copyright amendment.
As per Puls 4, the Court’s decision has “the potential to revolutionize the Internet.” Although limited to copyright infringement and YouTube, the company says that it could be widened to different areas and services as well.
Markus Breitenecker, Managing Director of Puls, said “The media, who call themselves social networks, will have to recognize that they must also take responsibility for the content through which they earn many millions. This is a real gamechanger”.
YouTube answered back by telling Austrian press that the judgment will be “examined in detail”.
A spokesman said, “We are keeping all options open, including an appeal.”
“YouTube takes copyright protection very seriously and provides rights owners with tools and resources to protect and exploit their content.”
The present ruling is yet to be legally binding, meaning there is more to come from this case.