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You might have thought that the mighty Viacom versus YouTube case had settled all of the main issues about sharing platforms and copyright. YouTube won the 2007 case with the defence that it was an innocent platform that took down any infringing material when it was notified on it. This cleared the legal way for the explosion of sharing of content.
Now an Austrian and a German court have separately asked the EU court to give some clarification on who can and should do what with sharing services.
A balance: defence of copyright and free speech
All of the issues of the Viacom case and these requests hinge in the balance between two points. One is the need for competition and free speech. The other is the protection of copyright. The Viacom case went for competition and free speech. In general EU and most national copyright regulations have gone the same way.
But the pendulum of balance may be about to swing the other way.
No longer simple hosts
Sharing platforms are no longer the rather simple hosting houses they used to be in 2007. Hosting platforms are mere hosts when they automatically store content. But in the past 12 years they have added a lot of services. These include recommendations, search facilities and focused advertising. The EU court is being asked to rule if then, the platforms have not lost their claim to innocent storage and become publishers.
“Publishers”, now there’s a word that makes the social media platform owners scream. They are desperate to not be seen as publishers.
Deny the joy of millions
This is all more than just a game of semantics between powerful copyright holders and powerful sharing platforms. With one judgement that EU court could deny millions the joy they get from YouTube etc, and destroy the value of those services. In other words, we all have skin in this game.
Members of the EU have two years to implement the latest directives covering copyright from which these issues arise. By then we in the UK may be out. Even if we are my bet is that the UK will mirror EU copyright law and rulings on these vital issues.