Last week, when the world was watching Russian meteorite videos on YouTube, Germans weren’t.
As a result of an ongoing dispute between Google (YouTube's parent company) and GEMA, the primary German performance rights organization, a number of Russian YouTube videos have been blocked from within Germany. The reason? These videos contain background music playing from a Russian car radio.
This is just the latest example of a ridiculous situation that has developed in Germany. According to a recent study by OpenDataCity, more than 60 percent of the top 1,000 YouTube videos are unavailable in Germany because Google assumes the music rights might be owned by GEMA.
Germany doesn’t have an equivalent of the American fair use provision, which this would almost certainly fall under in the United States. Google did not immediately respond to Ars’ requests for comment. However, Google did provide a statement (Google Translate) on February 16, 2013 to the German Journalists’ Union (DJV), which first raised the issue last week. (Full disclosure: I was a DJV member when I was living and working in Germany as a journalist from March 2010 to March 2012.)
“YouTube has no insight into what rights GEMA represents,” the Google subsidiary wrote. “Due to the legal and financial risks that result from these processes in the context of GEMA’s [published royalty fee structure], music videos are blocked in Germany.”
Rights group wants a “per stream rate” of $0.005
In its own statement, the DJV pointed to one specific meteorite video, lamenting this sad state of affairs. The group believes the issue is limiting press freedom in Germany.
That video in particular, when viewed from Germany, results in this error message: “Sorry, this video, which includes music from [Sony Music Entertainment], is not available in Germany because GEMA has not granted the publishing rights thereto.”
When Ars asked GEMA via Twitter how it even knew whether it held the rights to the song in question, the group’s spokesperson, Ursula Goebel, simply wrote (German): “YouTube apparently blocks arbitrarily.”
Last month, GEMA wrote in a statement that Google’s German-language messages are “extremely misleading.”
“The displayed text gives the false impression that GEMA is categorically refusing to license the use of works of music,” wrote Harald Heker, GEMA’s CEO.
“GEMA has, on the contrary, always been willing to grant YouTube a license and YouTube has always had the option of acquiring a license itself in accordance with the legal regulations. For reasons that are unclear to us, YouTube has in the past not been prepared to go down this route. We have so far purposely avoided taking legal steps so as not to encumber the ongoing negotiations with further legal proceedings.”
In the same statement, though, GEMA said it wants royalty rates of a “per stream rate of €0.00375 ($0.005).” The organization has taken this dispute to the Arbitration Board of the German Patent and Trademark Office. In the meantime, GEMA adds that its talks with YouTube had been “broken off.”
GEMA did not respond to Ars’ request to pay €0.00375 to GEMA so that a friend in Germany could see the video in question.