25 February 2014

Ruling by the Regional Court of Munich: GEMA error messages on YouTube are in breach of the law

The Regional Court of Munich today issued a ruling on the legal dispute between GEMA and YouTube concerning the use of GEMA error messages to block videos in Germany. The court ruled that the messages on YouTube illegally denigrate and vilify GEMA.
When users in Germany search for things like music videos and live streams on the Internet platform YouTube, they often see a screen containing either the following error message, or one very similar: "Dieses Video ist in Deutschland leider nicht verfügbar, da es möglicherweise Musik enthält, für die die erforderlichen Musikrechte von der GEMA nicht eingeräumt wurden. Das tut uns leid." (“Unfortunately, this video is not available in Germany, as it may contain music for which GEMA has not granted the necessary music rights. We apologize for this.”) The Regional Court of Munich ruled today that these and similar messages used by YouTube give “a completely distorted picture of the legal dispute between the parties to the detriment of GEMA.” The court also said that the use of the error messages vilified and denigrated GEMA. It found that the text misleads users by implying that GEMA is blocking the videos, when in fact YouTube is the one responsible. The background to the dispute is that YouTube does not pay royalties for the use of music on its site, but generates advertising revenue through the music. Dr. Harald Heker, Chairman of GEMA’s Executive Board, commented on the court ruling as follows: “For almost three years, YouTube has been misleading the public with these error messages, and illegally influencing public opinion entirely to the detriment of GEMA. On the one hand, YouTube takes the stance that it does not require any licenses and hence any rights for the videos. On the other, the error messages state that the videos cannot be viewed because the rights have not been granted. The court has recognized this contradiction and classified YouTube’s conduct as illegal. This ruling sends an important and positive signal to music authors by showing that GEMA is not the one preventing people from enjoying music online. GEMA simply wants to license YouTube, like all other music services sites. GEMA’s objective is to make sure authors can participate in the commercial exploitation of their works and can continue to earn their living in the future.” In the past, the error messages repeatedly gave the public the false impression that GEMA blocks videos on YouTube. The latest example was a headline on the news site bild.de, which said that GEMA had blocked the live stream from the Maidan in Kiev. In fact, YouTube had blocked the stream at its own initiative, and used the GEMA error message where the content should have been. Bild has since submitted a declaration to cease and desist. The ruling by the Regional Court of Munich is not yet legally binding. Further information on the announcement of the ruling and on the background to the conflict between GEMA and YouTube is available at www.gema.de/youtube. GEMA represents the copyrights of more than 68,000 members (composers, lyricists, and music publishers) in Germany, as well as those of over two million copyright holders all over the world. It is one of the largest societies of authors for works of music worldwide. Press contact:
Ursula Goebel, Head of Marketing & Communication
E-mail: ugoebel@gema.de, Tel.: +49 89 48003-426 Katharina Reindlmeier, PR Manager
E-mail: kreindlmeier@gema.de, Tel.: +49 89 48003-586