Huh? Totally Clueless German Court Says ContentID Isn't Good Enough, YouTube Must Block Infringement By Keywords

from the total-failure dept

We’ve discussed a few times the legal fight in Germany between YouTube and the overbearing collections society GEMA. German law is a bit bizarre in that it has very little regard for secondary liability protections, and often seems to default to blaming third parties for the actions of their users. On top of that, GEMA is incredibly powerful and controlling in Germany. When I was there a few years ago (in part to discuss this case), I had musicians explaining to me that they had “secret websites” because GEMA wouldn’t let them offer their own music for free. The GEMA/YouTube dispute centers around the fact that GEMA wants YouTube to pay a fixed fee every time a video that includes a GEMA-covered song is played (and GEMA has actually suggested the fee for each stream should be identical to the cost of a download — no joke). After suing YouTube/Google, GEMA refused to negotiate, making Germany the only modern country in the world in which a collection society didn’t work out a deal with YouTube (and meaning that Google started blocking tons of music videos in Germany).

Unfortunately, the court has now ruled in the case, and the results seem ridiculous. It has said that YouTube is liable when users post videos (third party liability concepts still just don’t make sense to German courts). Even more ridiculous, however, is that the court has said that YouTube’s famous ContentID system is not enough. Instead, it must also install a keyword-based filter to block GEMA songs from being uploaded. Keyword-filters? Really. We’ve done this before a bunch of times and it doesn’t work. At all. Keyword filters are really stupid ways to deal with these kinds of things. First off, they tend to block all sorts of legitimate content. But, more importantly, users figure out how to get around them in less than an hour. They just start coming up with easy-to-decipher substitutes. Comparing a keyword filter to ContentID is like comparing a human strapping on wings to a modern fighter plane. One of them works and can actually get the job done. One of them just makes you look like an idiot.

The only “concession” the court appears to have given YouTube is that it only expects such filtering to work going forward, rather than having them search the archive. That, of course, is barely a concession at all. If I remember correctly, this particular court, in Hamburg, is somewhat notorious for siding with copyright holders, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see an appeal on this case…

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: gema, youtube

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Huh? Totally Clueless German Court Says ContentID Isn't Good Enough, YouTube Must Block Infringement By Keywords”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Machin Shin (profile) says:

I think it is about time for laws to be passed saying courts cannot rule on anything until it is proven those running the court actually understand whats going on. The court systems are old and outdated.

Long gone are the days that court cases were simply two farmers fighting over who owns a cow. The cases now are complicated and deal with many topics we cannot expect all judges to understand. Judges simply cannot be computer experts, chemists, biologists, engineers, and pharmaceutical experts.

The system need to be updated to account for the nature of modern cases.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:


The problem with your idea is that gone are the days where laws are simply to say who owns a cow. The legislators you would task to implement this “knowledgeable court” law are just as stupid and clueless if not more so. It’s a big reason why we’re in this mess to begin with. If legislators (German in this case, but it’s applicable anywhere) had not created laws wherein they take away people’s natural right to copy and share, then the judges wouldn’t be faced with having to decide these issues.

Anonymous Coward, J.D., esq. says:


Probably because they know entertainment lawyers have to be employed even if they decide to practice law in entertainment.

Entertainment lawyers are entertaining, and being one can pay slightly better than bookies or a manager. But oh well…they decide to have an ego, and choose lawyering in entertainment got some reason. It’s a dying industry to be in.

Soon I would suggest they move into insurance lawyering or accident lawyering. 🙂

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:


“Suck it up, buttercup, there is more coming.”

Speaking just for myself, I can’t wait until IP maximalists have completely destroyed everything the internet has made possible. Then, people will either wake up, grab their pitchforks, and string the Big Content fatcats up by their necks, or they’ll remain cattle and always wonder why the class divide seems to get wider and wider.

Either way, we’ll know what people are really made of.

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

Germans seem to prefer powerful controlling authorities

At least that’s what their history demonstrates. So they are getting what they want. Not what is right, but what they want. To be told what to do by a powerful controlling authority, thus relieving them of personal responsibility and decision making. Just like right here in the good old USA.

Zoe.LeelA (user link) says:

The List

The Gema fought for twelve songs wich are not even close to contempary pop context.From old Folk songs-one song is a traditionell caribean song,not even close to his self named copy holder Frank Farian and the others are german,eurotrash songs.Wow,three yrs of secret trades for songs,noone in germany will ever miss on radio,tv or online.Great sucess dear Gema.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘this particular court, in Hamburg, is somewhat notorious for siding with copyright holders’

the reason for this is the judge(s) dont have to have any knowledge of how the Internet works or any knowledge of copyright. listening quietly to the entertainment industries bullshit, then agreeing with it, is so much easier than trying to decipher what is right and what isn’t and then making a ruling based on the law!

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually it should be quite simple the decision goes against a decision made by the EU court of Justice, prohibiting filtering. Now the only question for Youtube that needs to be answered is whether EU court ruling supersede German ones. If that is the case, I am not sure if Youtube actually has to follow the judgement, considering it cannot be forced into doing something illegal.

Mat C says:


First off all there is no such thing as a natural right to copy and share copyright protected material. Secondly according to German law the copyright belongs to the composer. Youtube/Google is earning billions of dollars with content that has been created by musicians, artists, composers and so on. And google wants to get this material practically for free. the GEMA represents German composers. And of course these composers want their share of the money that google is making using their content. I think the GEMA needs some changes, but I love the GEMA for not letting itself get ripped of by a company (google) that has so much more power and money to run a worldwide anti copyright campaign than the GEMA will ever have. Google is Goliath and the GEMA is David in this case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You do realise that GEMA is blocking all sorts of videos without checking to see if the person who uploaded them has the right to do so.

You could buy the worldwide rights to a Sony Music Entertainment song, and upload it to YouTube (as is your good right if you buy the rights) and GEMA will still block it, because they do not care if you have a license or not. They just see content they want money for and will remove anything they want to.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:


Whoa whoa whoa. Hold on. You think you don’t have a natural right to copy and share anything with anyone? The default (before laws said to the contrary) is that you could copy and distribute at will. It’s only been in the last few centuries that governments have tried to take away that natural right. Take this quote from Pliny the Elder:

In comparing various authors with one another, I have discovered that some of the gravest and latest writers have transcribed, word for word, from former works, without making acknowledgment.

Copying has been going on for millennia. Copyright doesn’t grant a new right to a copyright holder. Instead, it makes exlusive a right they already have because everyone already has it. The only way to make it exclusive is to remove the right to copy and distribute from everyone else. Let me repeat to make myself clear, copyrights do not grant a new right to the holder, it takes away rights from everyone else. When you get a copyright the government is telling everyone that they are not allowed to copy the work covered. That’s why it’s so important to make sure we aren’t unnecessarily abrogating everyone else’s rights without good reason.

Emil (profile) says:

ContentID system

Here is a case study with ContentID and YouTube. The system is already so unworkable that it blocks videos for pretty much no known reason.

A friend of mine is a member and webmaster of a local karate club. He wanted to upload a video of a recent competition on YouTube, but the video was repeatedly blocked because some unknown company “R.I.” claimed copyright infringement. Nowhere did it say what it claimed copyright about. Indeed, in the end my friend got so annoyed that he completely removed audio from the film. BUT! It was still blocked for infringement! It was a video captured with a private video camera with no sound, and still it gets flagged. It is impossible to get any additional information about the alleged infringement as the “R.I.” is not sufficient information to determine anything.

And they want to make the system even worse in Germany? They are truly insane.

Hans says:


I?m from Germany and I?m really pissed off because of this GEMA shit we have here. This is a very big step into CENSORSHIP people! I can`t even get on YouTube without a VPN anymore. BTW, I`m using to bypass these ridiculous restrictions we have here, and with ACTA just around the corner I`m seriously thinking about using a VPN all the time I`m online…

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...