YouTube can be liable for copyright infringement

8 June 2018
We’ve all seen them. Those music videos with “(official video)” in the title to bait you into watching them instead of the original upload by the artist. In some cases, it’s because the artist hasn’t uploaded the video themselves (though this doesn’t make it okay) and other times, it’s just a fan looking to make a quick buck. This is the question: who’s to blame - the person who uploaded the video or YouTube?
If you ask the Vienna Commercial Court in Austria, YouTube is not a neutral host provider and is directly liable for the copyright infringements its users make. YouTube and its parent company, Google, have long maintained that the video streaming platform can’t be legally responsible for the content its users upload.
This all started back in 2014 when TV channel, Puls4 took YouTube to court after its copyright-protected content appeared on the video streaming service. The court argued in favour of television network saying that, YouTube’s algorithms which enable the “sorting, filtering and linking” of content to create “tables of contents according to predefined categories” means it’s not a neutral platform.
This is a preliminary ruling meaning it isn’t legally binding just yet. If the court comes to a final ruling and maintains this ruling, this could have major implications for any online service that hosts video.
YouTube reportedly told Austrian media that it is “holding all our options open, including appealing” the ruling. Both sides have four weeks to petition the court. YouTube could still appeal should the ruling be upheld.
Rifumo Mdaka is a Johannesburg-based music writer who champions South African queer artists. When I’m bored, I watch iPhone keynotes and commercials. Read my website FDBQ Music and follow me on Twitter, @rifvmo
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