Almost four years after we noted that the fight between German collection society GEMA and YouTube had gone on way too long, it looks like it’s finally been settled. If you don’t know, way back when, GEMA, which is effectively a mandatory copyright royalty collector in Germany, demanded insane rates for any music streaming on YouTube. Apparently, it initially argued that a stream on YouTube was no different than a purchase on iTunes, and thus it should be paid the same rate. In 2009, it asked for 17 cents per video view (which was a decrease from the 37.5 cents per stream it had asked for earlier). 17 cents. Anyone who knows anything about how the internet works and how advertising works knows that’s insane. YouTube was paying out a decent chunk of its advertising revenue to other collection societies at a fraction of a penny per view, which is inline with the potential ad revenue.
This created a huge mess in Germany, where tons of YouTube views were blocked — even when the creators have properly licensed the music. GEMA just threw up a big “no.” This is why, when I was in Berlin a few years ago, talking with musicians, one of them showed me how his band had an “official” website that GEMA knew about and an unofficial secret “real” website, where his band could actually distribute its own music, without GEMA interfering. Think about that for a second. GEMA was regularly blocking musicians from doing what they wanted with music so it could try to shake down YouTube/Google for ransom.
And it went on until now. Six or seven years ago, Germany was the only major country where the local collection society could not come to an agreement with YouTube and it took until now to finally sort this out. There’s no word on the final amount, though I imagine it will come out at some point. GEMA is crowing about the fact that this will cover payments back to 2009, though, since so many videos on YouTube in Germany were blocked from that point onward, think of all the views and all the money that GEMA deliberately blocked users from ever receiving. Either way, the common practice of seeing that a video is “not available” in Germany is now mostly over. There are apparently some videos, for music not represented by GEMA that will remain blocked, but this is a big step forward.