In principle, Google’s video channel YouTube and similar online platforms are not liable for copyright infringement of content that users upload. That would only be the case if the operators actively point out the illegal videos to the public, the European Court of Justice ruled.
The ruling stems from two cases brought before the EU Court by the Bundesgerichtshof, Germany’s highest court in civil and criminal matters. In one case, music producer Frank Peterson sued YouTube and parent company Google in Germany.
In 2008 parts of music pieces to which he claims to have copyright were placed online without his permission. This concerns music from the album A Winter Symphony by the English singer Sarah Brightman and private audio recordings made during some of her concerts.
The second case involved a case brought by publishing house Elsevier in Germany against the Cyando file hosting and sharing platform. In 2013, users put works to which Elsevier holds the exclusive rights online without permission.
The creative industry has been battling online platforms over illegal uploads for years, demanding compensation or at least removing unauthorized content. But according to the court, the operators themselves do not communicate with the public about copyrighted material.