Today the regional court of Hamburg announced its decision in the case GEMA vs. YouTube. In the opinion of the court, the operator of YouTube is legally responsible for the content of videos its users publish. This means YouTube has to initiate appropriate measures to make copyright protected works unavailable in the future.

The legal proceedings were to determine the fundamental responsibility of YouTube for the contents users publish on its website. The subject of the proceedings are twelve exemplary works in the repertoire of GEMA. GEMA’s intention is to stop YouTube in general from using these works on their video platform in Germany without paying royalties. The background of the proceedings is that although YouTube refuses to accept any legal responsibility for the contents offered by its service, at the same time it realizes a considerable financial profit through the marketing of user uploaded content.

YouTube cannot simply refer the rights holders in particular to the content verification program set up by YouTube, but rather it must also install digital fingerprints on the music works it offers. In addition, in the future YouTube must implement keyword filters. In conclusion, this means that the rights holders’ legal position must be effectively and sustainably protected.

Dr. Harald Heker, chairman of GEMA’s Executive Board, commented the court’s decision:

"We reached our primary goal one hundred percent, to have the court confirm that YouTube is fundamentally responsible for videos posted by users. YouTube must implement appropriate measures to protect our repertoire and cannot simply pass on this obligation to the copyright holders. This is an important victory for us."

GEMA represents the copyrights of and collects royalties for more than 64,000 members (composers, text authors, and music publishers) in Germany, as well as over two million copyright owners from all over the world. It is one of the largest societies for authors of music works in the world.

GEMA versus Google YouTube

Court Press Release (German)

Detailed New York Times Report (English)