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New Legal Benchmark For Google As French Tribunal Rules In Its Favor

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TF1, amongst the largest television companies in France had filed a lawsuit against Google’s online video-sharing platform YouTube, alleging that it had violated copyright laws.

However, The Tribunal de Grande Instance dismissed the copyright lawsuit on Tuesday, declaring that YouTube, that permits users to post videos on to the site, had taken sufficiently appropriate steps to remove programs like “Heroes” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

These were programs whose broadcasting rights were with the French television giant TF1 and which YouTube was alleged to have infringed.

TF1 had wanted €141 million, or $176 million, in damages. Unfortunately for them, the Tribunal ordered them to pay €80,000 for legal expenses incurred by Google.

Christophe Mueller, YouTube’s head of partnerships for Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa welcomed the decision and said that it “represents a victory for the Internet and for all those who depend on the Web to exchange ideas and information. It upholds the right for user generated content platforms to innovate, allowing us to do even more to help French artists to reach audiences at home and abroad.”

In its lawsuit, TF1 required YouTube to filter all content prior to its loading, to ensure that no copyright material was uploaded. The method, currently prevalent at YouTube, is a system called Content ID that attempts to recognize copyrighted videos.

Upon identifying, YouTube notifies the owner of the material, leaving it to his decision to either remove it or permit YouTube to sell advertising against it, under a revenue-sharing arrangement between the copyright owner and Google.

TF1, following the decision said, it was not sure how it would proceed in the matter.  “The TF1 Group has taken note of the decision, which appears surprising in several respects,” the company said. “That is why the group is studying the possibility of appealing the judgment.”

The French Court’s decision is the opposite of many other legal rulings across Europe, where YouTube has been charged with violating copyright rules. In April, a court in Germany ordered Google to install filters on YouTube, to thwart copyrighted material from being uploaded. The court’s decision came in a case brought by musicians, filmmakers and other creators of art and entertainment.

Even though Google is appealing against the German Courts decision, it took heart that the court consented to consider YouTube to be a hosting platform, a status that gives it some security under European Union Law. Incidentally, the French Court also concurred with Google on this matter.

Broadcaster Mediaset, managed by Silvia Berlusconi, former Prime Minister of Italy, had lodged a similar case against YouTube that went in its favor. An Italian court, ordered Google to remove and keep any Mediaset content of YouTube, or face a $250 fine per unlawful video, per day.

The case parallels with the long-running dispute between YouTube and Viacom in the United States. An appeals court has revived the copyright suit brought by Viacom, saying that a jury should hear the case.

A lower court had earlier said that YouTube merited the safe-harbor provision of US copyright law, which pardons web platforms of copyright contravention, provided they remove such material the moment they get to know about it.

Mr. Muller said, he was unsure whether the French Court ruling would impact the Viacom dispute, but said that he preferred that such matters be settled amongst the owners rather than fight them in court.

“It’s good to put this behind us,” he said of the French case. “We hope that this will allow us to move on and do more constructive partnerships around the world.”

Lately Google concluded an agreement with French artists, composers and music publishers, consenting to pay royalties for works streamed via YouTube.

Given that YouTube serves more than 4 billion videos each day, the logistics of filtering all for copyright infringements does seem a little arduos.

New Legal Benchmark For Google As French Tribunal Rules In Its Favor by
Authored by: Harrison Barnes