Blocking of YouTube videos in Germany

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The blocking of YouTube videos in Germany is part of an ongoing dispute between the video sharing platform YouTube and the Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte, or GEMA, a performance rights organisation in Germany.

According to a German court in Hamburg, Google's subsidiary YouTube can be held liable for damages when it hosts copyrighted videos without the copyright holder's permission.[1] As a result, music videos for major label artists on YouTube, as well as many videos containing background music, have been unavailable in Germany since the end of March 2009 after the previous agreement had expired and negotiations for a new license agreement were stopped.

Background[edit]

According to Google, GEMA sought to raise its fee charged to YouTube to a "prohibitive" 12 euro cents per streamed video — a claim that is disputed by GEMA spokesperson Bettina Müller stating their proposal was 1 euro cent only plus a breakdown by composer.[2][3][4] The issue is set to be taken up by a California court.[5] Google, the world’s biggest Internet search engine company, partly lost a German copyright infringement suit over how much it must do to remove illegal music videos from its YouTube website.[6]

A study sponsored by the video hosting website MyVideo estimated that 61.5% of the 1000 most viewed YouTube clips are blocked in Germany. This is significantly higher than, for example, in the United States (0.9%) or in Switzerland (>1%).[7]

Effects[edit]

Sony Music's CEO of international business, Edgar Berger, said in an interview in February 2012 that the Internet is a blessing for the music industry. Nevertheless, there are still problems that have to be overcome, such as restrictive copyright enforcement by music rights collecting agencies. Berger claims that YouTube revenue running into the millions is being lost because GEMA’s policies prevent artist videos from being shown online in the country.[8]

Conversely, it can be questioned how much of this lost revenue would have actually benefitted GEMA members, given that licencing agreements in other territories are subject to a confidentiality agreement that prevents even the membership of the collecting societies from knowing the royalty rates.[9]

Criticism[edit]

GEMA's stance has elicited considerable criticism from Google and foreign record companies, organisations that stand to make a lot of money from YouTube clips, potentially at the expense of GEMA members.

Edgar Berger, CEO of Sony Music Entertainment in Munich, told Billboard: “I suspect that some members of GEMA’s supervisory board have not yet arrived in the digital era. We want to see streaming services like VEVO and Spotify in the German market. Spotify must not be blocked by GEMA any longer. Artists and music companies are losing sales in the millions”.[10]

Google spokesman Kay Oberbeck told Billboard in Hamburg that YouTube had entered into 20 agreements with collection societies from 33 countries. "We therefore regret all the more that GEMA has decided to commence legal proceedings against us despite the promising talks which we have held, thus removing the basis for conducting any further negotiations in a spirit of mutual trust. A solution can only be found at the negotiating table without any legal proceedings. We are prepared to resume negotiations at any time."[10]

Frank Briegmann, President of Universal Music Germany, has described Germany as “a developing country in the digital music market. GEMA apparently has not yet understood the new developments in the international music market”.[11]

Circumventions[edit]

A common way of viewing blocked videos in Germany is to use browser add-ons that fake a foreign IP address, which are available for all common browsers and Spotify, in some cases these add-ons even come prebundled with the browser setup. Another way is to go through a foreign proxy or VPN server, but those greatly hinder bandwidth and buffering speed. Although intellectual property rights in music are licenced by territory, employing such methods to circumvent local restrictions is not necessarily illegal.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Frederic Lardinois (2010-09-03). "YouTube Loses in German Court: Held Liable for Copyrighted Videos". Readwriteweb.com. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  2. ^ Lischka, Konrad (31 March 2009). "Youtube sperrt Musik-Videos in Deutschland". Der Spiegel. 
  3. ^ O'Brien, Kevin J. (2 April 2009). "Royalty Dispute Stops Music Videos in Germany". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Hodgin, Rick C. (April 9, 2009). "YouTube blocks GEMA music videos in Germany". TG Daily. Retrieved April 9, 2009. 
  5. ^ Spahr, Wolfgang (24 June 2011). "GEMA Under Fire For Royalties Dispute With YouTube". Billboard. 
  6. ^ Brown, Mark (23 April 2012). "German court orders Google to police YouTube copyright violations". Wired. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  7. ^ Paukner, Pascal. "Diese Kultur ist in Deutschland leider nicht verfügbar" (in German). Süddeutsche Zeitung. 61,5 Prozent der Clips sind in Deutschland gesperrt. Verglichen mit 0,9 Prozent in den USA und etwas mehr als einem Prozent gesperrter Videos in Nachbarländern wie Österreich oder der Schweiz kann Deutschland allerhöchstens als Youtube-Entwicklungsland gelten. 
  8. ^ "Sony Music Boss: Censored YouTube Videos Cost Us Millions". TorrentFreak. 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  9. ^ "YouTube Deal Help". PRS for Music. Retrieved 2013-08-26. 
  10. ^ a b Spahr, Wolfgang (2011-06-24). "GEMA Under Fire For Royalties Dispute With YouTube". Billboard.biz. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  11. ^ "German labels criticise GEMA over YouTube | CMU: Complete Music Update". Thecmuwebsite.com. 2011-06-27. Retrieved 2012-10-07.