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Google has won an important ruling in a Spanish court (Sept 23) that will make it harder for holders of copyright to protect their content on the internet.
The search company successfully defended its YouTube subsidiary from claims brought by Spanish broadcaster Telecinco that it should be responsible for copyrighted material.
Mark Owen, head of the Intellectual Property Practice at London law firm Harbottle & Lewis, said the ruling was of great significance.
“This is an important judgment, as it’s the first of its kind in Europe involving YouTube and is a straw in the wind for how these issues will play out in European Courts. While comforting for services such as YouTube it is a blow to companies which have spent considerable sums on copyrights.
“It places the onus on them to monitor sites such as YouTube and similar sites and not on the sites themselves, to keep track of infringements.
Telecinco had claimed YouTube was damaging its business, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper online, by airing TV shows before they had been broadcast in Spain.
The company argued that Google “profits from the exploitation of intellectual property rights.”
In its ruling, the Spanish court said that it was the responsibility of Telecinco to identify and tell Google of any infringements.
Mark Owen from Harbottle & Lewis, said: “Copyright owners complain that this can be an enormously costly and often impractical task given the large volume of clips and video footage which appear on such sites all the time, and that the sites enjoy all the benefit while only having to take down material once they receive a specific complaint.
“The ruling goes to the heart of the debate about who should be responsible for paying to police the internet. While the UK government are proposing laws which would make broadband .
providers share the bill with content owners, this decision shows that European laws still protect service providers such as YouTube.”