Liability of Online Platforms in the Digital Single Market: A Closer Look at the 'Transfer of Value' Discussion

Dr. Tobias Holzmüller

In the course of the ongoing shift in the online market from ownership to access-based models, platform services that provide access to content uploaded by their users play a major role in online content distribution. However, legal uncertainty regarding the liability of such platform services affects both rights holders, in their ability to negotiate appropriate remunerations, and content provider services, in their competition with platform services for users and revenues. Legal proceedings against platform services have not yet led to a sufficient clarification of the legal situation. It remains unclear to which extent platform services engage in acts of communication to the public and making available and whether they can benefit from the liability exemption for hosts provided for in the E-Commerce Directive. On 14th September 2016 the EU Commission presented a proposal for a directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market taking up the current “transfer of value”-discussion, especially with the provisions in Article 13 and recital 38. Against this background and irrespective of different legal positions on the issue of whether platform services are responsible for the licensing of musical works GEMA and YouTube recently signed an agreement enabling GEMA members to participate in the exploitation of their works and ending the legal proceedings between the parties.

Tobias Holzmüller, born 1975, studied history and law at the Universities of Glasgow, Montpellier, Heidelberg and New York (NYU, LL.M. 2007). He holds a PhD from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and served as a research scholar at the Max-Planck-Institute for Intellectual Property law and Competition from 2004 to 2006. After being admitted as lawyer in 2007, he worked for the law firm Gleiss Lutz until 2012 in their Munich and Brussels offices. In this time Tobias focused on German and European antitrust law, copyright law and EU law.

Tobias joined GEMA in January 2013 as Director for Legal Affairs & General Counsel. Since 2016 he is also in charge of the German Society for Private Copying Collections in Germany (ZPÜ). He is a member of the Association of German Antitrust Lawyers and the German Society for Intellectual Property Rights (GRUR). He has published extensively on various topics of competition and copyright law and teaches Copyright Law at the University of Regensburg.