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YouTube Loses Lawsuit in Germany After Refusing to Delete Documentary


A lawsuit over a documentary that appeared on German public television and was illegally uploaded on YouTube has recently been decided in favor of the copyright owner. The unusual case was brought to court because YouTube previously refused to delete the film despite a request by the copyright owner.

Streaming services, such as Google's YouTube platform, usually avoid copyright infringement through a variety of advanced methods for content identification in combination with an option for copyright owners to report illegal uploads, whereafter the reported content is removed. In most cases, this procedure works well for both sides, but what if the streaming service refuses to delete such content after a reported infringement? This is exactly what happened when a YouTube user uploaded a documentary that previously appeared on German public television. Upon being notified by YouTube that an infringement has been reported, the YouTube user argued that he is co-owner of the rights for the film since his tax payments contribute to the public broadcasting system. Instead of removing the documentary in question, the film remained available online.

The lawsuit against YouTube, initiated by German law firm KV Legal and the German documentary association AG Dokumentarfilm (AG DOK), ultimately led to the deletion of the film as decided by the state court of Leipzig. According to the final court decision, "YouTube has not fulfilled its obligations to avoid copyright infringement after notification through the copyright owner, since it has not taken advantage of its full potential, in technical and economic terms, to prevent further infringement of legally protected content". The court decision further states that YouTube should have immediately removed the content after having been notified by the copyright owner. The response by the YouTube user who uploaded the content would not have required additional verification since it is a well-known fact that tax payments do not provide rights ownership for media content of public broadcasters.

AG DOK argues that the fact that such a lawsuit was required underlines Google's intention to extend the limits of copyright law in its own favor by all means.

More information (in German) can be found here:

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