Google has been found guilty on four counts of hosting copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holders and ordered to pay nearly $560,000 in legal costs and damages in a recent case decided in an appellate court in Paris.
The four claims were brought by a photographer, a film producer and co-producers of a few documentaries. The plaintiffs argued that they found their material in Google’s search engine, and even Google video, and the firm lacked their permission for it to be there. They asked for it to be taken down and Google either failed to do so or did not monitor and take down the material after it was notified that it had found its way back into the company’s search engines.
Under Title II of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S., Google possibly would fall under ‘safe harbor’ provisions for online service providers, shields against claims of copyright infringement as long as it followed certain guidelines; these include blocking access to material that parties assert infringes their copyrights, provided they or their agents provide proper notice of their claims to Google.
France’s “E-Commerce Directive” is akin to those DCMA ‘safe harbor’ provisions. It says that, if an online service provider acts as a hosting service providing content storage, as Google does, the firm can limit its liability by swiftly removing or disabling access to disputed content upon due receipt of “actual knowledge or awareness of the illegal activities.”
While Google may not have prevailed in the current case, it appears to possess a viable E-Commerce Directive defense and already has launched in the appeal process. A key aspect in this next step: Will higher judges believe that Google has monitored its content thoroughly enough after it receives claims of infringement? Or will they be swayed toward copyright holders after learning about their repeated complaints of infringement and Google’s disputed response in taking down works?
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