YouTube Loses German Royalties Case


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YouTube, the most popular video platform on the web, has been taking some heat over music clip royalties as of late. It was recently reported that parody singer Weird Al Yankovic is suing Sony for $2.5 million, over videos of his the company had licensed to YouTube - and now the Google-owned streaming video site has lost a court battle in Germany over the licences of 7 songs.

While YouTube has in the past asserted that it cannot be held responsible for the content that is uploader by its users, a Hamburg judge has just ruled that this isn't the case, and wants the site to install more upload filters to sort out music clips owned by a royalty collection group called GEMA. Gema, which represents roughly 64,000 German artists, said that YouTube hadn't done enough to stop the illegal uploads, and seeked damages for royalties concerning 12 of its licensed songs. The court sided with Gema for 7 of the clips, which could lead to a hefty bill for YouTube.

If the new filters are enforced, this could delay upload times for YouTube, which presently logs about 60 hours of new video per minute. This would definitely be a hit to the service - a main reason why many users steer clear of other video hosting sites, like Vimeo, is because of the long processing times. A YouTube clip is processed very quickly, and a Gema-endorsed filter would likely hinder this to an unknown extent, with copyrights having to be cleared. On the other hand, if a random user is monetizing an unsigned artist's content on YouTube, which happens all the time, this is also a bad thing, which would warrant longer wait times. As of now, video content can be posted faster than real time - meaning, an hour long clip can be put online in ten minutes, so there's no way some oDesk employee in Tangier might have pre-screened it. It is evident that it will likely be a while for YouTube and Google to sort out the most efficient balance regarding how its content is legally uploaded.

Google had no comment on the German ruling, concerning the trial that has been ongoing since 2010. YouTube had initially blocked all Gema content from its site for a time in 2009, likely aware that the organization would create a problem down the road with its royalty demands. Gema had also sued Rapidshare in 2009, prompting that site to better filter its content. Gema also basically ran Grooveshark out of Germany, who'd stated that Gema's licensing rates essentially made it impossible to make any sort of profit.