Google Wins Dismissal of German Suit As YouTube Battles Over Music Videos

A court declined to issue an emergency order forcing Google Inc. to block German access to some music videos on its YouTube website in a dispute over monitoring files on the Internet.

Still, the Hamburg Regional Court said it might ultimately rule in favor of a group of music-collecting societies, including the German agency GEMA, if a new suit was filed under standard court procedures.

The case is part of a dispute over who is responsible for detecting illegal files on YouTube. Google, the owner of the world’s most popular search engine, in June won dismissal of a $1 billion suit brought by Viacom Inc. in a U.S. court for unauthorized use of content from programs on YouTube.

“There are some good reasons to think that YouTube indeed has some duty to take care of detecting illegal uploads,” Presiding Judge Heiner Steeneck said today. “GEMA has the opportunity to ask for such a ruling in regular proceedings.”

The court dismissed GEMA’s emergency suit today because the agency has known for a long time that the songs were available on YouTube.

Negotiations

“This isn’t the final resolution of the dispute and GEMA can ask to have the legal question cleared in a regular lawsuit,” said Steeneck. “I know our ruling doesn’t help the parties much for the moment, but that’s how procedural rules work sometimes.”

The ruling is an opportunity to ask GEMA to come back to the negotiating table to find an amicable solution, said Kay Oberbeck, spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google.

GEMA will file a lawsuit under regular proceedings to have the dispute cleared, its lawyer Matthias Lausen said. Royalty collecting societies are in charge of paying musicians and authors each time music is played or used in broadcasts or online downloads.

Google and GEMA had a license agreement that lapsed in March last year and negotiations didn’t lead to a new deal, the court said in a statement after the ruling.

YouTube blocked access to music videos on its German website after talks between the company and GEMA broke down. The step was limited to files posted by music companies under a business agreement with YouTube. The Hamburg case also sought to block access to songs posted by other users.

YouTube says it deletes illegal files once it has been alerted to them. GEMA is trying to shift the responsibility to Google, seeking to force it to search and delete the videos on YouTube.

In the U.S. case, Judge Louis Stanton ruled that YouTube hadn’t infringed Viacom’s copyrights because it’s protected by the safe-harbor provision of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law states a service provider isn’t liable if it removes infringing material when notified by the copyright owner.

Viacom appealed the decision to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

The German case is: LG Hamburg, 310 O 197/10.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karin Matussek in Hamburg via kmatussek@bloomberg.net

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