Austrian Law Can Hold YouTube Liable for Copyright Infringement

  • According to an Austrian court, YouTube can be held directly responsible for copyright infringements on the platform.
  • The rule is not legally binding yet, but if it stands YouTube will be forced to appeal at the Vienna Commercial Court.
  • Puls 4, a local television channel had its copyrighted content posted on YouTube, which led to a complaint by the company against the video sharing platform.

According to Austrian law, YouTube may be held directly responsible for hosting copyright-infringing content. The complaint against the video sharing platform was made by Puls 4, an Austrian television channel whose content was illegally posted on YouTube. According to the Vienna Commercial Court, the video sharing platform is not a neutral intermediary and should be held responsible for its content.

The video sharing platform is home to a large pool of copyright-infringing content. Copyright holders are required to issue takedown notices to remove any infringing content shared on the platform which is usually sufficient for the video sharing platform to take down the content. According to the Vienna Commercial Court, it is not sufficient for the platform to remove content after it has been shared illegally. Instead, the video-sharing site should prevent third-party content creators to post any infringing content.

YouTube’s representatives claimed that the platform has no control over the content on the platform until it is already posted by YouTubers. The company feels they have no obligation to prevent any cases of copyright infringements as a neutral party. The court disagreed with the video sharing site claiming the platform is more than just a neutral hosting provider.

YouTube Copyright Infringement
Image Courtesy of The Trichordist

Since YouTube is responsible for filtering, sorting and linking content for categories and also controls the browsing behavior of users by creating tailor-made lists through its Suggestions feature, the platform cannot claim host provider privilege according to the court.

Television channel Puls 4 claims that the court’s ruling could change how copyright content is handled on the internet and can spread to platforms beyond just YouTube. The managing director of the television channel stated that the social networks must take responsibility for the content that is posted as they generate millions in revenue from the infringing content without the copyright holders not receiving any compensation for their hard work.

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