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Can YouTube Be Regulated?

DW staff (kjb)November 10, 2006

YouTube, a trendy Internet portal for sharing video content, is mainly used for harmless home videos. But when concerts, movie clips and soccer games are shown, touchy copyright questions come up.

YouTube cofounders Chad Hurley, 29, left, and Steven Chen, 27, pose for a photo with their laptops at their office loft in San Mateo, Calif., Wednesday, March 29, 2006.
YouTube's California-based co-founders sold to Google in OctoberImage: AP

The German Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights (GEMA) has demanded that Google either pay royalties for publishing copyrighted material on YouTube or erase it.

Google, which bought the one-and-a-half year-old video portal in early October for $1.65 billion, has apparently agreed to GEMA's stipulation. "Of course we will respect and protect copyrights," said spokesman Stefan Keuchel.

Monitoring nearly impossible

Visitors at a Google stand at a trade fair in California
How can Google meet copyright laws while maintaining the essence of YouTube?Image: AP

However, since it is individual users put the videos online and not Google, this is easier said than done. Some 70,000 new videos are uploaded by private users each day.

Currently there is no preliminary screening to prevent the upload of copyrighted videos.

"We're not going to wait for the negotiations. We've already made Google aware of the copyright violations on YouTube that affect our members," a spokesperson from the music society told German daily newspaper Handelsblatt this week.

The music industry is now hoping to avoid a never-ending legal battle similar to the case with the music exchange portal Napster.

Music industry not alone

GEMA is the first major music industry association trying to settle copyright claims with YouTube, but not the only party seeking legal action.

Both the German Soccer League and the soccer club FC Bayern Munich have also announced that they will not overlook copyright violations on YouTube.

FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach in play
FC Bayern Munich don't want to let go of exclusive video rights to their gamesImage: dpa

FC Bayern Munich markets their own games on the Website FCB.TV and draws around 30,000 subscribers. The soccer club's chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said he sees pirated game clips as a violation of their "exclusive rights" to video broadcasting.

The German Soccer League has hired a private company called NetResult to detect video recordings online that violate their copyright.

Google has not proved unresponsive to legal concerns. Last month nearly 30,000 files were deleted when a Japanese publishing organization complained of copyright infringement on YouTube.

"YouTube is a great thing"

The biggest challenge, it seems, will be to find a balance between satisfying copyright laws and maintaining the essence of YouTube's -- that video exchange is freely accessible to all.

"YouTube is a great thing," Stefan Weikert, a manager at Edel Music told Handelsblatt. "But it has to provide remuneration."