Despite netting content deals with studios such as Paramount in the United States, YouTube sometimes faces something of an uphill battle abroad when it comes to content rights issues.
A Hamburg court ruled on Friday that the video hosting site owned by Google must install filtering software to prevent to uploading of copyrighted material and that Google is legally liable for any infringement committed on its servers.
The German court came to this conclusion after favoring German copyright organization GEMA in its suit against YouTube over 12 clips for which it holds rights were posted by users. GEMA, which represents over 65,000 content creators, has previously stated that "whoever wants to playback or perform music in public in Germany will become, as a rule by doing this, a [our] customer."
While the court did not say that Google is obligated to police all content on YouTube, it stipulated that the site must "take appropriate measures to hinder further rights violations after being notified about the copyright violation" and that filters to protect GEMA owned content must be put in place.
In the United States, Google is protected by the takedown provision of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) which states that content hosts such as YouTube and Facebook are not required to actively police or censor material uploaded to their services provided they take down infringing content upon being notified by rights holders.
By stating that YouTube is responsible for users' content, the door has now been opened for YouTube to be made liable for infringement way beyond what is possible in the US.
GEMA head Herald Hekar told German magazine Der Spiegal that "'We hope that YouTube will now negotiate on a serious basis with us" following its loss in court.
Despite everything that has happened, however, YouTube does consider the ruling something of a victory.
"Today's ruling confirms that YouTube as a hosting platform cannot be obliged to control the content of all videos uploaded to the site," a Google spokesman stated. "We remain committed to finding a solution to the music licensing issue in Germany that will benefit artists, composers, authors, publishers and record labels, as well as the wider YouTube community."