German Supreme Court Asks Europe for Guidance in YouTube Copyright Ruling

Sarah Brightman
Bruce Glikas/WireImage

The YouTube case, involving illegally uploaded songs, centers on whether users or internet platforms should be held liable for copyright infringement.

Germany's highest court has postponed a ruling on a key case involving copyright infringement on YouTube and asked for guidance from Europe.

The German Supreme Court, or BGH, was set to rule Thursday on whether Google's YouTube platform is liable for violations of intellectual property rights on its video platform. The case, which goes back to 2008, involves a suit by a music producer who is seeking compensation for songs illegally uploaded to YouTube.

But on Thursday, the court said it would delay ruling on the case until it received guidance from the European Court of Justice.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament passed new legislation, the EU Copyright Directive, that promises to overhaul copyright law in Europe, potentially impacting the YouTube case. The German Supreme Court said it has sent a series of questions to the European Court of Justice asking for clarification on the liability of online platforms in cases of copyright infringement.

Hamburg music producer Frank Peterson sued YouTube in 2008, claiming the online platform should pay him compensation and damages for allowing songs from British classical artist Sarah Brightman, for which he holds the copyright, to be uploaded and shared online.

An initial ruling found that YouTube has to combat piracy on its platform but did not hold YouTube liable for copyright infringement, nor did it require the company to monitor all uploads to prevent similar piracy in future. Peterson appealed and the case has worked its way up to Germany's Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament voted to approve the controversial Copyright Directive that would make online platforms liable for copyright infringement. The legislation still needs to be approved by national governments before becoming law.

Critics of the Copyright Directive argue it will require online platforms to use upload filters to censor users and will stifle free speech online. Many in the creative community have welcomed the new legislation as an effective means to combat online piracy.