Swedish Court: News Site Embedding A YouTube Video Guilty Of Copyright Infringement

from the ugh dept

Nearly a decade ago, just as YouTube was really getting popular, we questioned whether or not it would be considered infringement to merely embed a YouTube video if the content in that video were unauthorized. As we noted at the time, it seemed like a crazy idea that this should be considered infringing, given that embedding is just sticking a simple line of code on a website. No content ever actually is hosted or lives on that website. You’re just telling a browser to go find content from the original YouTube source. For the most part, US courts have agreed that embedding is not infringing. And we’d thought that the EU had come to the same conclusion — however that ruling was a bit vague, in that it focused on the embedding of authorized content, not unauthorized content.

Last month, however, there was the troubling EU Court of Justice ruling that found that mere links could be deemed direct infringement, especially if they were posted on a for-profit site. The ruling, somewhat dangerously, argued that any for-profit site that posted links should have the burden of checking to make sure the content they link to is not infringing, and it’s fine to assume that they had the requisite knowledge when they link (this is, of course, crazy). And now we’re seeing the reverberations of such a silly ruling.

Over in Sweden a court has taken that decision to say that a newspaper embedding an unauthorized YouTube video is infringing on the copyright in the video. Here are the details of the case, as summarized by the always excellent IP Kitten blog:

In 2012 the claimant (Rebecka Jonsson) filmed a bungee jumping session gone wrong in Africa.

Someone (not Ms Jonsson) uploaded the video on YouTube. On 9 January 2012 the YouTube video was embedded on the L’Avenir website run by the defendant, in the context of an article describing the incident.

The claimant had neither authorised the publication of the video on YouTube, nor its embedding in the L?Avenir article.

In her action before the Attunda District Court, Ms Jonsson claimed that L?Avenir had infringed copyright in her video by both embedding it on its website and publishing a frozen still of the video. She sought damages for EUR 1931 against the defendant, as well as award of litigation costs.

The court, looking at that bad ruling at the Court of Justice basically said, welp, L’Avenir is for profit, so it’s infringing:

According to the court, it was ?obvious? that L?Avenir had published the link to the claimant?s YouTube video with the intention of pursuing a profit [yet the court did not really explain what evidence supported the conclusion that in this case the defendant had a profit-making intention]. According to the court, L?Avenir had not been able to demonstrate that it had no knowledge of the unlicensed character of the video embedded on its website. Hence, L?Avenir was found to have infringed the claimant?s copyright by linking to the YouTube video without Ms Jonsson?s permission.

IP Kitten also notes that the court was supposed to then consider if L’Avenir was protected by various exceptions — such as for news reporting — but did not do so. This should be pretty troubling for all sorts of news sites online, who regularly embed videos or link to content without having the ability to determine whether or not they are infringing. This will make some fairly basic aspects of reporting online a huge liability risk. Linking to the wrong site or embedding the wrong video now puts you at risk of copyright infringement claims in the EU — which is crazy. Copyright law is really broken.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: l'avenir, 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 “Swedish Court: News Site Embedding A YouTube Video Guilty Of Copyright Infringement”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Another failure mode under this ruling

Yes, linking to the wrong site or the wrong video on the right site is a problem under this ruling. However, there is a related problem: linking to a URL that was correct when the author posted the link, but became wrong later. This could easily happen if someone was careless enough to use certain URL shorteners in the article (rather than following the shortened URL to its full value and putting that in the article), but could also happen if a video-hosting site made it sufficiently easy for the content of a URL to change afterward (e.g. if the original poster’s account is closed and someone else can get that exact URL for their upload). In practice, the only safe thing to do would be to link only to videos where the author has affirmative assurances, in a form recognized by the court (meaning, not just a pseudonymous e-mail, but a signed letter, preferably notarized), that the video is authorized, and a sufficient description in the letter that can be used later to prove exactly what video is described as authorized. It would not be sufficient to say “this is a bungee-jumping video”, but rather it would need to say “This is a bungee-jumping video having characteristics X, Y, Z”, where X/Y/Z are specific enough that a later unauthorized video will not match those characteristics. Describing some contents of the video would be helpful, and including irrefutable metadata like length, file size, and digest would be ideal. Realistically, people are are not technical geeks will not just know to get this, and even if they did, getting the uploader to make those assurances is unlikely to be quick or cheap.

Nick (profile) says:

This seems extremely wrong. There would be no way of knowing that a video on youtube (which provides a way to share its content freely using widgets) was an unauthorized version. Especially a small, homecam video uploaded by a total nobody stolen from another total nobody.

It’s as if they expect the entire world to know:
1. About the existence of this video taken by a person at a bungee jumping practice in a remote part of the world
2. To know the youtube account name of the person who filmed it.
3. To know that the person who uploaded it is NOT an alternate account of the person who filmed it.
4. That the video itself is under copyright.
5. That youtube – who is responsible for ensuring copyrighted material is not copied without the owners permission – hadn’t already determined that the video was an authorized copy.

If any of these are found to be wrong, this case should have been tossed out. I find it hard to believe that the court had proof that every one of these steps was true. The burden of proof should be on the accuser.

Also…. That was fast. The event was supposedly filmed in 2012, and by jan 9 on 2012 it had already been uploaded by ANOTHER person, and that second video was linked to by a website? Sounds fishy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It would seem that only the actual poster of the content would be able to know for certain if it was authorized or not.

Even with paid content…how would a Netflix subscriber know if Netflix actually has the rights to all their content. Subscribers just have to assume that they do but if somehow they ever had any content that they didn’t have the rights to, is the subscriber going to be responsible if they watched that content?..Same with any other streaming service/download service.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

According to the court, L’Avenir had not been able to demonstrate that it had no knowledge of the unlicensed character of the video embedded on its website. Hence, L’Avenir was found to have infringed the claimant’s copyright by linking to the YouTube video without Ms Jonsson’s permission.

Wait. Are these guys seriously in trouble, in a court of law, for literally failing to prove a negative?!?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

No sure if you are asking that question seriously or what.

The Holy Grail of government is to be able to prosecute citizens at any time for any thing. The foundation of America was truly unique in that the law originally started with the premise that you are innocent until proven guilty. This means that L’Avenir has no need to prove that they had no knowledge, instead it on the prosecutor to prove that they DID have knowledge. As far as I know Europe has generally been a guilty until proven innocence society since forever… well everyone except America for a short time that is. America has become the same way which is why its police state looks much like the rest of the worlds now with only the exception of the Jury.

So yea, they are seriously in trouble for failing to prove a negative, and this isn’t even hardly a bit of surprise as that is actually just exactly how most of this stuff goes down and pretty much every court depends on it to keep their wheels greasy!

Anonymous Coward says:

just something else that the entertainment industries have got banned on their way to getting complete control of the internet! wont be long now and we’ll have to get permission off of those industries before we can even access the net! think i’m crazy? just wait and see! almost every government is siding with whatever these industries say and do (for a price though, i’ll bet!) totally screwing every citizen of every country that used to condemn places like China but are now doing the same, if not worse themselves!! two faced ass holes!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If no DMCA notice was sent to the website requesting the removal of the embed video due to copyright infringement grounds then how would the website know that the embed video was copyright infringement if they were never notified by way of DMCA notice or by any other notification that the embed video was copyright infringement?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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...