Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google Loses a Round in Italian Court: Will YouTube Have to Pay Up?

Here’s the problem with running the world’s biggest video site: It exposes you to legal fights all over the world.

And Google (GOOG) appears to have lost a tussle in Italian court today.

Mediaset, a commercial broadcaster controlled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has won a copyright-infringement ruling, and a Rome court has ordered YouTube to remove all of Mediaset’s content from the site.


The broadcaster began legal action in July 2008 following a trawl through the YouTube site revealed 4,643 clips and 325 hours of unauthorized Mediaset material, the company claimed.

In his written report, judge Tommaso Marvasi referred in particular to the prevalence on YouTube of Mediaset’s Italo version of “Big Brother,” which he described as the most important reality show on Italian television. It is also the Mediaset program most viewed on the Internet.

In a statement, Mediaset said that the ruling was historic because for the first time the rights of the broadcasters and program editors to their exclusive products had been fully recognized.

Mediaset is reportedly looking for more than $730 million in damages, but no word on how that phase of the trial will proceed.

YouTube’s response, via a spokesman:

We are considering our next steps, including a possible appeal. Under European and Italian law, service providers such as YouTube are not responsible for screening the content people upload. But we actually go beyond the law by offering copyright holders effective tools which allow them to manage how and whether their content is made available. It’s a programme called Content ID. More than 1,000 broadcast partners including Rai and Fox Channels Italy have chosen to use it. Mediaset could simply join these other partners and use the tools as well. Alternatively, it would be enough for them to provide us the URLs of the videos and we would remove them.

Win some, lose some. Earlier this year, YouTube–along with most other Web companies that rely on user-generated and/or uploaded content–was celebrating Veoh’s U.S. court victory against Universal Music.

If that ruling stands, it appears to put almost all of the onus on content owners to keep their stuff off of video sites. Which could pose a problem for Viacom (VIA) and its billion-dollar lawsuit against Google.

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