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Google cleared in YouTube copyright case in Spain

Court dismisses charges of copyright infringement filed by a Spanish broadcaster that claimed YouTube should be held liable when people upload copyrighted content.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Google has been cleared in a YouTube copyright-infringement case filed by a Spanish broadcaster.

In its lawsuit against the search giant, Spanish broadcaster Telecinco claimed that YouTube should be held responsible for people who upload videos that infringe on Telecinco's copyrights.

But a federal court in Madrid rejected those claims today, ruling that it is the responsibility of copyright holders to identify such content and inform YouTube if it infringes on their copyrights.

In reaching its decision, the court also noted that YouTube offers content owners tools to remove any material that infringes on their copyrights, further putting the onus on them, rather than on YouTube, to take action against copyright-infringing content.

In a blog post today, Google hailed the ruling and called it a "clear victory for the Internet and the rules that govern it." The company said the decision reaffirms European law, which finds that content owners are the ones best suited to determine whether something infringes on a copyright and that YouTube has a responsibility to remove such content only when notified by the owner.

Specifically, Google pointed to its Content ID technology, which gives content owners the ability to notify YouTube of any material that infringes on a copyright. The owner can then tell YouTube whether to block the content, put an ad next to it in order generate revenue, or simply keep track of the number of views. The company said that Content ID is being used by more than 1,000 media providers across Europe.

Google also noted the challenges that it and other online companies would face if they were held responsible for identifying copyrighted content.

"More than 24 hours of video are loaded onto YouTube every minute," according to the blog. "If Internet sites had to screen all videos, photos, and text before allowing them on a website, many popular sites--not just YouTube, but Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and others--would grind to a halt."

Google has squared off against other media outlets over the question of who should be held accountable for copyrighted material uploaded to YouTube.

Earlier this month, a German court ruled against the search giant, finding that YouTube was liable after users uploaded several copyrighted videos of singer Sarah Brightman.

But in June, the company won a decision in a longstanding, $1 billion lawsuit filed by Viacom, which accused Google of encouraging its users to violate copyright. Like the court in Madrid, the judge in that case found that the burden is on the content owners to identify copyrighted material and that only then does YouTube have a responsibility to remove that content.