Google Wins Copyright Ruling in France

May 29, 2012

A French court ruled that Google is not responsible for filtering content on YouTube, dealing a blow to French broadcaster TF1 which sought damages for copyrighted sports and movies which ended up on the video-sharing website.

TF1 claimed 141 million euros in damages but was ordered to pay 80,000 euros of Google’s legal fees.

The decision mirrors an earlier case in France in 2011 in which video-sharing website Dailymotion was classified as a “platform” for content and not an “editor” of content.

The two French decisions mean that the websites are not legally responsible for ensuring that pirated content does not appear, as long as they take steps to remove it once the copyright owner indicates its presence.

Google faces other cases in the United States involving media giant Viacom and in Italy involving broadcaster Mediaset over whether its YouTube site is responsible for pirated content.

A German court ruled in April that YouTube was responsible for the content its users published and should take down copyrighted clips or face a hefty royalties bill.

In April a U.S. appeals court also dealt Google a blow by reviving lawsuits by Viacom Inc., the English Premier League and other media companies over the use of copyrighted videos on YouTube.

In France the courts have sided with Google.

“The defendant is not responsible in principle for the video content on its site; only the users of the site are,” the decision reads.

“It has no obligation to police the content before it is put online as long as it informs users that posting television shows, music videos, concerts or advertisements without prior consent of the owner is not allowed.”

The case can still be appealed because it was made by a civil court of first instance in Paris.

A spokeswoman for TF1, which is France’s biggest broadcaster, s aid it saw the decision as “surprising in several respects.”

“For that reason, TF1 is studying whether to appeal the decision,” she added.

Google welcomed the decision, saying it was good for the company and for Internet users.

Christophe Mueller, head of partnerships for YouTube in Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa, welcomed the decision as allowing the site to continue as an “open platform for everyone.”

“We continue to oppose any demands to systematically filter or pre-screen YouTube content and are confident that future court rulings will uphold the need to allow innovative Web services to flourish,” Mueller said in a statement.

Google shares were up 0.9 percent to $596.75 per share at 1443GMT.

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