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Sunday, April 22, 2012

YouTube Loses A Major Music Battle

YouTube logo from Music 3.0 blog
I always like to keep up with what's happening on the legal front of the online music business all over the world, and here's a potential blockbuster. A court in Hamburg, Germany recently ruled that YouTube is responsible for the content that users post on the site after the German music royalty collection service Gema filed suit.

Basically Gema stated that YouTube hasn't done enough to stop copyrighted clips from being posted and wanted YouTube to install filters to protect its 60,000 members. The case was only over 12 videos, but the ramifications are severe in that YouTube may be forced to pay a huge royalty bill on every video that contains copyrighted music as a result.

What YouTube is really afraid of is that this one ruling can snowball into different areas other than Germany. As if that wasn't bad enough, if the film and television industries also took up the cause, it could really mean that the service could not survive. Read those last words again - in its most severe form, YouTube could be taken completely off the air. Gone.

In the US, YouTube still enjoys the protection of a ruling that basically says "we're not responsible because we didn't post it." The problem is that once a precedent is set in one territory, you never know what might happen elsewhere.

There's some interesting gamesmanship that's going on in relation to this case. Gema's been asking for royalties for some time, so in 2009 YouTube basically blocked all the videos from all German record labels for a brief time in retaliation. Gema also obtained a ruling against the file sharing site Rapidshare where the judgement required it to be more proactive when in hunting for pirated content. Then Grooveshark pulled out of Germany because the licensing rates made it impossible for them to be profitable.

This could end up being a big problem not only for YouTube, but for all video sites. Watch this one closely as it unfolds.
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4 comments:

Kevin said...

Interesting to see if other countries follow this precedent. I agree, that it could become way too difficult for YouTube to police everything that's posted, and that it might cause a shutdown. Of course, you would think, with technology like Shazam offers, the ability to identify music based on an "audio fingerprint", so to speak, that Google/YouTube would be able to identify uploaded content based on some sort of audio (digital?) fingerprint and stop the file from being posted.

Anonymous said...

It's absolutely doable, technically. The question for me still is this: does it apply just to major label signed artists? Or to signed artists? YouTube is a great promotion tool for artists, and totally necessary for small artists, because it keeps their trafic and server costs down and makes their video views quite scaleable.
And what about cover versions. These wouldn't be identified by audio fingerprinting. If YouTube would have to watch out for those, then bye bye.

Bobby Owsinski said...

There's at least one technology based on IPV6 that I know of that could solve the problem, but it's nowhere close to implementation.

Bobby Owsinski said...

There's at least one technology based on IPV6 that I know of that could solve the problem, but it's nowhere close to implementation.

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