For some time now, the stagnant negotiations between GEMA, the copyright administration society, and the Internet video portal YouTube has been the subject of public discussions in the media.
This week Dieter Gorny, chairman of the Bundesverband der Musikindustrie (Music Industry Association of Germany) expressed his views. In an interview with the Financial Times Germany, he asked GEMA to take the initiative in the negotiations with YouTube.
However, the fact is that in reality music use on YouTube is not influenced by the conflict with GEMA. Blocking the videos – this is now well-known in the meantime – was not and is not initiated by GEMA, but rather as a rule it is initiated by other copyright holders. Only twelve(!) works by various copyright holders, who are party to a test case GEMA has filed against YouTube, have been blocked as a direct result of an initiative of the copyright administration society.
The repeated assertion that GEMA refuses to sign an agreement with YouTube is also false: German law stipulates GEMA is obligated to grant every licensee, in other words also YouTube, the rights it administers. Even when there is a difference of opinion between the parties in regard to the appropriate compensation, GEMA cannot prevent the use of its rights if YouTube – like a large number of other users – would have adhered to the legally prescribed rules (depositing the disputed portion of the compensation into escrow). YouTube, however, decided to use the rights administered by GEMA without paying any royalties to GEMA – which, in GEMA's viewpoint, represents a violation of copyright law, and has even more substance in the case of Google, as large amounts of advertising revenue are generated with YouTube.
The fact remains: GEMA has had licensing agreements for years with a number of large online music providers – such as, for example, iTunes; German Telekom and its subsidiaries T-Online ("Musicload") and T-Mobile; Vodafone; and amazon – in the music-on-demand field. GEMA also communicates well with the IT association BITKOM. The accusation that GEMA is acting "slowly" or even with a "sit-back-and-wait attitude" is not justified when viewed with this background in mind.
From GEMA's viewpoint, the overdue conclusion of the negotiations with YouTube cannot, however, be used as an argument for allowing licensees to dictate conditions. This is even more so as the results will be a landmark for music use fees on the Internet in the future.
GEMA represents the intellectual property rights of more than 64,000 members (composers, lyricists, and music publishers) in Germany as well as over two million copyright holders all over the world. It is one the largest authors' societies for music works worldwide.
Bettina Müller, Head of Communication & PR
email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone +49 89 48003-426