Unfortunately, this video is not available in Germany …”
Probably there is no German internet user who hasn’t come across this famous sentence when scanning YouTube for music videos. More and more videos are blocked which actually were accessible two years ago, even videos which you wouldn’t look for these days like Britney Spears’ debut single “Hit me Baby one more time” cannot be found anymore.
Those who weren’t confronted with this problem up until now might wonder how it’s possible. Well, GEMA, the society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights, makes it possible!
What is GEMA?
GEMA is a German association that aims at protecting the copyrights of artists. But this isn’t a mark of politeness or altruism, it is mere business. GEMA charges a fee for all kinds of use of music, that is sale, advertisement, live performances and radio. They represent composers, text editors and their music publishers with around 64,000 members in Germany and two million right holders from abroad.
Who pays what and how much?
GEMA obliges YouTube to pay € 0.006 per click. Seems like peanuts but it’s not! According to the online market research company Comscore about 3.8 billion videos were watched in April 2011. Assuming that 50% of that number were music videos whose authors are represented by GEMA, YouTube would shell out €11.4 million just for the month of April. Not so easy to earn this sum of money with online advertising…
That’s why YouTube blocks many music videos that otherwise would be available. Those that still can be viewed generate profit for GEMA which passes along one part of the earnings to the their members.
The GEMA controversy has not come to an end yet but how about the German nightlife? Not only YouTube has to filter its music but so do German nightclubs. While YouTube had to introduce a “Content-ID” function that immediately identifies videos that violate copyrights, clubs will have to pay a fee for playing songs.
As if one battlefield was not enough…
GEMA interferes where copyrights need to be protected. Therefore the charges for proprietors of clubs and other institutions where music is played will increase from January 1,2013.The result: everyone is upset. Because of the increase of fees many club owners are afraid of the consequences and reckon on closing their business. Party animals fear an explosion in admission fees.
Gema defends the new regulation arguing that it gives the maze of prices a clear structure; instead of 11 tariffs there will be only two. There are two important factors that will be taken into account by GEMA. One is the size of the venue in steps of 100 square meters and the other is the entrance fee in steps of €1.
For owners who organize big events with high admission fees this means significantly higher expenses. This is valid for events where DJs play the songs as well as live performances. In some cases the charges will increase by 1400% but GEMA still points out the advantages.
Smaller events might benefit from the future tariff regulation by paying less than before. Do we have to avoid mass events from now on and settle for small or medium-size events then? That is absurd, isn’t it?
Clubbers are furious because of the upcoming change expecting to pay more than usually although the prices are already a bit close to the bone. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t make sense to increase the admission fees since they are linked to the tariffs. However, it makes no difference if we pay more for the entrance or for the beverages, in the end it is the consumer that pays the costs anyway.
Especially the nightlife in Berlin could suffer from the GEMA tariffs. The German capital already has a high mortality rate among its clubs and GEMA promotes it. Consequently the tourist industry would sustain losses.
Are we closing a chapter of German culture now? Isn’t it another form of censorship that we aren’t aware of yet? Or is it just a counterattack on the consumer due to a drop in revenues in the music industry?