Google cites victory over Spanish TV firm a win for the internet

23 Sep 2010

The dismissal of copyright infringement charges against YouTube by Spanish broadcaster Telecino has been described by Google as a clear victory for the internet and “the rules that govern it.”

The long-running Telecinco case has centred on claims that YouTube had been airing episodes of popular TV shows before they were broadcast in Spain.

Telecinco accused YouTube of exploiting its intellectual property rights and as a result impacting on its core business.

The TV company won a first ruling on the case two years ago.

However, today the court rejected Telecinco’s claim, noting that YouTube offers content owners tools to remove copyright infringing content and this means that it is the responsibility of the copyright owner – not YouTube – to identify and tell YouTube when infringing content is on its website.

“This decision reaffirms European law which recognises that content owners (not service providers like YouTube) are in the best position to know whether a specific work is authorised to be on an internet hosting service and states that websites like YouTube have a responsibility to take down unauthorised material only when they are notified by the owner,” said Aaron Ferstman, head of Communications for YouTube – Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Ferstman said the decision demonstrates the wisdom of European laws. “More than 24 hours of video are loaded onto YouTube every minute. If internet sites had to screen all videos, photos and text before allowing them on a website, many popular sites – not just YouTube, but Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and others – would grind to a halt.

“YouTube and other websites give artists the opportunity to reach wider audiences than ever before and make money in the process. At the same time, people gain access to a wealth of creative content. We believe that letting websites like YouTube thrive is in the best interest of artists, publishers and consumers who can all benefit from the opportunities offered by hosting platforms.”

Ferstman said it was out of respect for copyright laws and ensuring artists and media companies succeed online that it built Content ID, its technology designed to prevent copyright abuses.

Content ID

“The owner of a video simply gives us a copy and tells us what to do with an unauthorised upload: remove it, place ads next to it, or simply let them know that it’s been uploaded. Over 1,000 media companies, including Lagardère Active, Channel 4 and RAI in Europe currently use Content ID. And in Italy, all major broadcasters but one are using these tools.

“We have always been open to working co-operatively with rights holders and continue to grow our number of partnerships with content owners and hope to be able to work with Telecinco in the future in the spirit of copyright protection, content distribution and new opportunities,” Ferstman said.

Google is clearly hoping that the momentum of the Telecinco victory will carry forward into its long-running battle against US broadcast giant Viacom.

In August, Viacom submitted paperwork to a court in New York making official its intention to appeal a decision by a judge in June to throw out a US$1bn case it had taken against Google and YouTube.

In June, Judge Louis L Stanton of the Southern District of New York ruled that Google was shielded from Viacom’s copyright claims by “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protect a website from liability as long as the website removes the material when requested by its rightful owner.

Viacom launched its legal campaign against YouTube in 2007, accusing YouTube of copyright infringement after thousands of Viacom videos were uploaded onto the site and alleged YouTube profited from this.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years