United States: Copyrights, Internet: YouTube Decision May Obligate Content Check On Upload

Summary

On June 6, 2018, the Commercial Court of Vienna decided in favor of private broadcaster Puls4 and determined that YouTube qualified as directly liable for copyright infringing video uploads of its users. If maintained, the decision would obligate YouTube (and indirectly other major online platforms) to perform a content check upon upload instead of only removing copyright infringing content upon notification ("notice-and-takedown"). Austrian case law is not binding for other EU member states, but the Commercial Court's judgment denying YouTube the application of the Host Provider Privilege under EU law might still encourage similar decisions based on the same line of argument.

The Case

Puls4, an Austrian private broadcaster and affiliated company of major broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1, sued YouTube in 2014 for an injunction removing Puls4 content that YouTube users had made available on YouTube. As in a multitude of other comparable cases in Europe, YouTube responded by asserting the Host Provider Privilege, i.e., a provision set out in Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive exempting host providers under certain conditions from liability for infringing activities by their users. The decision was issued by the Commercial Court of Vienna as the court of First Instance, and YouTube has the right to appeal it. In comparable cases in other EU member states, YouTube has so far been able to either avoid direct liability or to settle cases before they were brought to the court of last resort.

The Host Provider Privilege

Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive obligates Member States to ensure that a service provider is not liable for the information stored at the request of a recipient of a service, on the condition that the provider does not have actual knowledge of any illegal activity, or, upon obtaining such knowledge, acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information.The latter provision is the basis for the notice-and-takedown procedure usually employed in such cases. The Host Provider Privilege, however, only applies if the service provider indeed qualifies as a "host provider" within the meaning of the E-Commerce Directive. In its decisions, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has stated repeatedly that the host provider conditions are not met where

"the service provider, instead of confining itself to providing that service neutrally by a merely technical and automatic processing of the data provided by its customers, plays an active role of such a kind as to give it knowledge of, or control over, those data." (ECJ in L'Oreal ./.eBay)

The Decision

The decision has not yet been published, but the court's main reasoning has been quoted as YouTube leaving the role of

"a neutral mediator by, e.g., interconnecting, sorting, linking, providing content tables with predefined categories, tracking the search behavior of users and making tailor-made surfing suggestions."

In other words, the court has reviewed the operation of the YouTube platform and concluded that YouTube is going beyond merely providing a platform for user content Instead, the court determined that YouTube has, in fact, appropriated the users' content through various structural and context-related measures. Based on its determination that YouTube does not qualify as a host provider, the court held that it is, correspondingly, also not entitled to the Host Provider Privilege.

Impact

Puls4's managing director has called the decision a "milestone" in the fight of copyright owners to commercially exploit their work and to defend themselves against copyright infringements. Indeed, if the decision is not challenged, or if it is maintained by the court of appeal, online platforms like YouTube would be obligated to closely monitor all content being uploaded to avoid copyright infringements. The position of copyright owners, in turn, would improve by YouTube being added to the list of infringers that claims for injunctive relief could be asserted against. But it is likely that YouTube will appeal the decision. In proceedings of German collecting and performance rights organization GEMA against Google and YouTube regarding infringing use of music in UGC videos, both the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg and the Higher Regional Court of Munich had maintained upon appeal by GEMA that YouTube qualified as a "passive intermediary." Following the decisions, GEMA did not take one of the cases to the Federal Court of Justice, but was instead compensated by YouTube for the use of music on basis of a settlement agreement.

Even if YouTube did not successfully appeal the decision of the Commercial Court of Vienna, it could – though less likely – theoretically change parts of its platform structure to try to comply with prerequisites under the Host Provider Privilege. Also, as the decisions of Austrian courts do not bind other European courts, it would remain to be seen whether other courts would follow the Vienna Commercial Court's reasoning. After all, the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg, for instance, also had closely reviewed YouTube's content structuring and did not determine YouTube to be directly liable. It must be noted, however, that the decision arguably follows the trend of ECJ decisions gradually broadening the scope of liability for copyright infringement. Also, the judgment might in part anticipate current EU legislative negotiations on a Copyright Directive,which might determine mandatory monitoring obligations for online service providers giving access to large quantities of audiovisual content.

Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Morrison & Foerster LLP. All rights reserved

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions