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Google's Internet video platform, YouTube, will no longer be allowed to show seven videos of songs which are protected by the German royalty collections body GEMA. The ruling may have far-reaching implications.
Google's video website YouTube was told by a regional court in Hamburg on Friday not to display seven out of 12 contested clips without permission from the German royalty collections body GEMA.
GEMA claimed that its members were losing money every time their music was being displayed on YouTube. A proper licensing fee between the two sides expired in 2009. GEMA has been at loggerheads with YouTube ever since over what it thought were insufficient measures of the latter to prevent the appearance of copyright-protected material on its website.
The Hamburg State Court ruled YouTube would in future have to install an efficient mechanism to filter out such content uploaded by users or face a fine of up to 250,000 euros ($330,000) for each case, or up to six months imprisonment.
YouTube had previously maintained that it bore no legal responsibility for the uploaded content, saying it checked and sometimes blocked content only when users alerted the firm about alleged violations of laws.
Pressure rising on Google
Knowing that a foolproof filter system looks next to impossible, GEMA is now hoping that Google will finally agree to a new bilateral licensing treaty whereby the collecting society would not get an annual lump sum for the contested videos, but a fixed fee each time copyright-protected videos are watched.
For over two years now, users of YouTube based in Germany have been unable to watch videos of thousands of music acts, because the legal dispute over licensing fees has remained unresolved.
In order to access the desired material nonetheless, technically versed Germans have often resorted to a wide range of software that temporarily provides them with a faked IP address from a foreign country where the content in question is not subject to any restrictions.
hg/nk (dpa, AFP)