YouTube is responsible for copyright-infringing videos uploaded to the platform by its users, a German court has said.
On Friday, the Hamburg regional court ruled in favour of GEMA, the German rights collection society, in a lawsuit that centred on 12 example videos. The videos had been uploaded to YouTube without the permission of the copyright holders.
At the moment, YouTube only takes down videos when someone has notified it that they infringe copyright. The court ruled it had to add digital fingerprints to all the videos its users upload, and that it also had to install a word filter to more quickly pick up copyright-infringing videos in titles and descriptions.
"We reached our primary goal one hundred percent, to have the court confirm that YouTube is fundamentally responsible for videos posted by users," GEMA chairman Harald Heker said in a statement.
"YouTube must implement appropriate measures to protect our repertoire and cannot simply pass on this obligation to the copyright holders," Heker added. "This is an important victory for us."
YouTube owner Google can still appeal the verdict, but GEMA said it hoped the decision would bring Google back into discussions over licensing rates. The two parties have long been in dispute over this issue, which has resulted in most major label music videos being blocked on YouTube Germany since 2009.
GEMA finally agreed new rates in December, with the cost-per-stream for a fully on-demand service such as YouTube coming in at 0.6 euro cents. However, despite the fact that they were much lower than what GEMA was previously pushing for — 12c per stream — Google still did not agree to pay the new rates.
ZDNet UK has asked Google whether it will appeal, and how the verdict may further affect its German YouTube services, but had received no reply at the time of writing.