A lawsuit against Youtube should give the film industry more effective tools in the fight against illegal uploads. The film distributor Constantin wanted to assert a right to information about the users’ mail and IP addresses against the video platform before the Federal Court of Justice (BGH). So Constantin wanted to proceed against the violation of his copyrights. Now the BGH has passed its judgment: Youtube does not have to give out more than the postal address.

But companies like Constantin are unlikely to be able to do much with that. Anyone who uploads films illegally rarely gives their correct address, but rather – as in the negotiated case – a wrong name and an imaginary address. The lawyers at Constantin-Film therefore insisted that the relevant regulations must also grant them access to further data with which they can track down the suspects. In the German copyright law, however, the right to information only relates to “name and address”, in the relevant EU directive “names and addresses” are mentioned. The BGH called the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to clarify the question.


The ECJ ruling from July specified what the BGH has now traced: There is no entitlement to e-mail or IP addresses or telephone numbers, but only that Youtube transmits the old-fashioned postal address. Which means that the information suits are largely ineffective. “The decision of the ECJ is binding for us,” said Senate Chairman Thomas Koch when the verdict was announced.

German implementation of the EU Copyright Directive could help

In practice, however, companies are now using other instruments to combat illegal uploads. Google has developed a content ID system for Youtube, a kind of database in which media groups save their files for comparison on Youtube. Uploaded films can then either be blocked or monetized by the rights holder placing advertisements. Many media companies have already concluded license agreements with YouTube, as a YouTube lawyer explained on the sidelines of the negotiation in October. With such a license, the producers even benefit financially from the uploads, and YouTube remains an attractive platform.

The protection of authors is currently being reorganized. A few weeks ago, the Federal Ministry of Justice presented a draft bill to implement several EU copyright directives into German law. Part of the reform is also a more effective liability of platforms like Youtube. They either have to buy licenses for the uploaded films and songs – or ensure that they disappear from their platform.