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Google is having mixed luck in the European Union this week. The same day the Court of Justice ruled in YouTube’s favor on a copyright infringement matter, the European Commission announced an investigation into antitrust issues surrounding Google’s advertising operations.
On the copyright front, the court found that YouTube isn’t liable for copyright infringement by its users.
Music producer Frank Peterson in 2008 sent Google Germany a cease and desist after finding video and audio recordings of Sarah Brightman’s A Winter Symphony album and her related tour performances had been uploaded to YouTube. (His credits on the works at issue vary and include producer, backing vocalist, composer and publisher.) Unhappy with the company’s response, he sued. The dispute was referred to the Court of Justice after working its way through the German court system over several years.
“The operator of a video-sharing platform or a file-hosting and ‑sharing platform, on which users can illegally make protected content available to the public, does not make a ‘communication to the public’ of that content, within the meaning of that provision, unless it contributes, beyond merely making that platform available, to giving access to such content to the public in breach of copyright,” states the judgment, a summary of which is embedded below. “That is the case, inter alia, where that operator has specific knowledge that protected content is available illegally on its platform and refrains from expeditiously deleting it or blocking access to it, or where that operator, despite the fact that it knows or ought to know, in a general sense, that users of its platform are making protected content available to the public illegally via its platform, refrains from putting in place the appropriate technological measures that can be expected from a reasonably diligent operator in its situation in order to counter credibly and effectively copyright infringements on that platform, or where that operator participates in selecting protected content illegally communicated to the public, provides tools on its platform specifically intended for the illegal sharing of such content or knowingly promotes such sharing, which may be attested by the fact that that operator has adopted a financial model that encourages users of its platform illegally to communicate protected content to the public via that platform.”
Meanwhile, on the antitrust front, the European Commission is looking into whether Google is engaging in anticompetitive conduct with regard to online advertising.
“Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising purposes, it sells advertising space and also acts as an online advertising intermediary,” said EVP in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager in the Tuesday announcement. “So Google is present at almost all levels of the supply chain for online display advertising. We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack. A level playing field is of the essence for everyone in the supply chain. Fair competition is important – both for advertisers to reach consumers on publishers’ sites and for publishers to sell their space to advertisers, to generate revenues and funding for content.“
Google has not yet responded to a request for comment.
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