YouTube Faces Opposition from German Music Royalties Collection Agency

By Devon Glenn 

YouTube viewers in Germany will have to wait for access to certain songs. GEMA, a large music royalties collection agency, has decided to suspend negotiations over its contract with YouTube after more than three years of arguments over copyright liability, the company announced yesterday.

GEMA represents 65,000 composers, lyricists, and music publishers in Germany and more than two million copyright holders around the world.

The agency had asked to increase its royalties per streamed video after its original contract with YouTube expired in March 2009. When the companies could not agree on the amount, GEMA filed a lawsuit against YouTube in 201o for distributing copyrighted content without permission and for allowing its users to illegally upload music as well.

In the United States, copyright violations committed by users are usually protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The German court, however, ruled that YouTube should install filters to prevent users from uploading illegal material.

GEMA would also like to see removed the message that accompanies blocked materials on the website, which read (trans. from German), “This video is not available in Germany because it may contain music for which the necessary music rights were not granted by the Gema,” according to Die Welt.

The agency will also leave it to the German Patent and Trademark Office to arbitrate on the appropriateness of its compensation rate if YouTube does not cooperate.

A representative from Google told TechCrunch, “YouTube believes that rights holders and artists should benefit from their work. We have dozens of collection society deals in place across more than 45 countries because we provide an important source of income for musicians and a platform where new artists can be discovered and promoted. Music labels are generating hundreds of millions of dollars on YouTube every year. Artists, composers, authors, publishers, and record labels in Germany are missing this opportunity as a result of GEMA’s decisions. We remain committed to finding a solution with GEMA compatible with YouTube’s business model so that we can again provide a source of revenue for musicians and a vibrant platform for music lovers in Germany.”

Image by timquo.