Vimeo Fined €8.5 Million in Rome Court for Not Removing Licensed TV Content

By Bill Toulas / January 17, 2019

Of what could be perceived as a precursor of what’s about to come with the Article 13 law, Vimeo has taken a blow by the Rome Court of Appeals who decided to impose a hefty €8.5 million penalty to them. The reason is their failure to remove copyright infringing content owned by Italian media broadcaster Mediaset, who was the prosecutor as well. The particular skirmish between the two actually started back in 2012, with Mediaset reporting that several programs that were broadcasted on their media were illegally uploaded by Vimeo users onto the New York-based video platform. Over the time though, the list of the Mediaset-owned content on Vimeo reached the extent of over 2000 videos, so only a fine would put a decisive stop at this point.

Vimeo ignored Mediaset’s takedown requests until now, possibly because they falsely thought that they could hide behind the EU’s directive on electronic commerce that abducts responsibility from those who act as neutral online entities (safe harbor protection). Mediaset lawyers targeted this specific point, convincing the court that since Vimeo catalogs, indexes, and commissions these videos, they are playing an active role in the infringing content distribution. The court has even deducted that Vimeo purposeful kept the infringing content on their platform, as they underlined the company’s technical capacity to filter out this content automatically.

To prevent this from happening again in the future, the Rome court has also imposed a precautionary measure for the prevention of copyright infringing content upload on Vimeo. According to the ruling, Vimeo will pay a fine of €1,000 every time this happens, and another €500 for each day the content still remains accessible on the video platform.

Article 13 advocates welcomed the court decision with statements of contentment, with the case serving as a demonstration of the new legal context that is about to get fully unleashed. A Mediaset spokesperson told local media: “A provision that intends to harmonize copyright laws in the individual States to protect the creative industry and publishers who, like Mediaset, create content regularly remunerating the rights of all authors.”

Enzo Mazza, the CEO of the Italian Federation of the Music Industry has also shared the following comment with TorrentFreak: “The decision is really important regarding the definition of active hosting limiting the safe harbor and therefore extending the liabilities of the defendant. This allows the creative sector to better address the fight against copyright violations in the video streaming area. Also regarding compensation of damages the decision is groundbreaking in Europe.”

While Vimeo was the “guinea pig” that paid the price, the bell tolls for YouTube as well, as they will also get excluded from the safe harbor protection with Article 13. YouTube is a much larger video database that definitely requires much more vigorous content filtering efforts in order to avoid paying such hefty fines in the future. Whether any provisions to address practical issues will be implemented in the final form of the new legislation remains to be seen soon.

Do you believe that Vimeo should have done something about the Mediaset content sooner? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to also share your thoughts with our online community as well, on Twitter and Facebook.

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