Gema, a German royalties group, won the case against the Google owned media site on Friday 20th April in Hamburg. The significance of the ruling is that the ‘website (YouTube) was responsible for the content its users published’.
There are countless ramifications of this, with the potential for royalties having to be paid and the knock on effect for all user generated content platform. There are far too many to outline in this post, however as we consult for a firm of solicitors who deal with extradition, the ruling did get me thinking about and comparing with the case of Richard O’Dwyer.
O’Dwyer is a 23 year old from Sheffield who the US Justice Department is seeking to extradite from the UK to face trial for alleged copyright infringement on his website TVShack.net. If you’re unaware of TVShack.net, it allowed people to watch "Movies, Television, Anime, Music and Documentaries" online.
According to the site itself it was a “simple resource”….going on to add “All content visible on this site is located at 3rd party websites. TV Shack is not responsible for any content linked to or referred from these pages”. The site was simply a conduit to other sites that already existed on the web, much like Google is. O’Dwyer is charged with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal infringement of copyright, both charges carry a sentence of 5 years.
Like TVShack did, YouTube generates revenue through advertising; and the amount generated is likely to be significantly more when you consider the number of users and videos on YouTube. Where YouTube differs is that it enables users to upload copyrighted material to their servers for other people to view. According to the terms and conditions this is prohibited, but everybody knows it’s going on and they actively do very little to enforce this prohibition. With over 60 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute and over 30 billion hours of video watched each month, I appreciate it’s nigh on impossible to regulate all of this; but just because it’s too big to police, and Google are a huge corporation, does not mean they should go unpunished and indeed continue to profit through advertising. Whether they are doing it knowingly or not, this seems very much akin to harbouring stolen goods.
I’m not arguing that O’Dwyer is innocent, I’ll leave that up to the legal experts, but surely YouTube is committing a greater crime by actually storing illegal content on their servers?
Not being an expert on copyright, internet or extradition law I accept I could be completely missing something here. However, from the articles I have read, and on the face of it, the US government seems happy to flex their international muscles over the UK without actually getting one of the biggest players in their own house in order.