YouTube could face huge royalty bill for music in German case

German court rules that YouTube is solely responsible for the content users upload and post, a decision that could have massive implications for the Google-owned video-sharing giant.

Zack Whittaker Writer-editor
Zack Whittaker is a former security editor for CNET's sister site ZDNet.
Zack Whittaker
2 min read

A German court ruled today that Google-owned YouTube is solely responsible for the content that users upload and post on the video-sharing Web site, a decision that could have massive implications for the company.

YouTube could be forced to pay royalties to those whose music copyright was infringed upon. It was also ordered to install word-based filters to bolster its existing filtering system to prevent further infringement of copyrighted work.

But YouTube warned that the measures would slow down the upload process, which could lead to a knock-on effect to citizen journalists in particular, who rely on the site to break user-contributed news.

GEMA, a German music royalties collecting body that represents more than 60,000 German writers and musicians, took YouTube to court over 12 music videos that were uploaded by users for which no royalties were paid.

YouTube said during the case that it should not be held responsible for the content its users upload. YouTube said it has state-of-the-art copyright filters which detect and remove infringing content from the site. It also warns users that they are infringing copyright. It said during earlier proceedings that it blocks content when users and rights holders alert the company over infringing content.

Millions of music videos could be affected, and Google could ultimately end up having to fork out vast sums back to the music industry as a result of this landmark case.

It is estimated about 60 hours of video is uploaded to the video-sharing site every minute.

YouTube will likely appeal the decision, though no comment was immediately made by the company after today's ruling.

This story was originally posted as "YouTube faces massive music royalty bill in German copyright case" on ZDNet's London Calling blog.