Today a federal court in Madrid dismissed charges of copyright infringement against YouTube. This decision is a clear victory for the Internet and the rules that govern it. Spanish broadcaster Telecinco had claimed that YouTube should be liable when users upload copyright-infringing material.

The court rejected Telecinco’s claim, noting that YouTube offers content owners tools to remove copyright infringing content and this means that it is the responsibility of the copyright owner – not YouTube – to identify and tell YouTube when infringing content is on its website. This decision reaffirms European law which recognizes that content owners (not service providers like YouTube) are in the best position to know whether a specific work is authorised to be on an Internet hosting service and states that websites like YouTube have a responsibility to take down unauthorised material only when they are notified by the owner.

The law strikes a careful balance: it protects copyright owners’ interests while allowing platforms like YouTube to operate, making it possible – for example – for elected officials to interact with the public in new ways and enabling first-hand reporting from war zones.

This decision demonstrates the wisdom of European laws. More than 24 hours of video are loaded onto YouTube every minute. If Internet sites had to screen all videos, photos and text before allowing them on a website, many popular sites – not just YouTube, but Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and others – would grind to a halt.

YouTube and other websites give artists the opportunity to reach wider audiences than ever before and make money in the process. At the same time, people gain access to a wealth of creative content. We believe that letting websites like YouTube thrive is in the best interest of artists, publishers and consumers who can all benefit from the opportunities offered by hosting platforms.

YouTube respects copyright laws and wants to ensure that artists, publishers and media companies succeed online. That’s why we built Content ID; our technology is designed to prevent copyright abuses and give owners control over their content. The owner of a video simply gives us a copy and tells us what to do with an unauthorised upload: remove it, place ads next to it, or simply let them know that it’s been uploaded. Over 1,000 media companies, including Lagardère Active, Channel 4 and RAI in Europe currently use Content ID. And in Italy, all major broadcasters but one are using these tools.

We have always been open to working cooperatively with rightsholders and continue to grow our number of partnerships with content owners and hope to be able to work with Telecinco in the future in the spirit of copyright protection, content distribution and new opportunities.

Posted by Aaron Ferstman, Head of Communications for YouTube - Europe, the Middle East and Africa