YouTube blocks music videos in Germany

Per stream payment at center of dispute

BERLIN -- Negotiations between Google subsidiary YouTube and the German collection society GEMA about the extension of their licensing agreement have broken down, according to a statement from GEMA's Munich-based CEO Dr. Harald Heker.

GEMA reported that YouTube will now block access to music videos on the German YouTube platform, even though the collection society stressed it would be willing to continue the negotiations.

It follows a similar incident in the U.K. last month when negotiations between Google and PRS For Music stalled over rates, prompting YouTube to block access to premium music videos in the U.K.

The German licensing agreement, which expired on March 31, enabled YouTube to provide access to music videos, films and user-generated content featuring GEMA repertoire.

"Negotiations about the extension of the agreement have failed so far because YouTube is not willing to fulfil GEMA's requests for more transparency [relating to] the used musical repertoire," Heker said.

He added: "YouTube wants the extension [to the license] on the basis of a flat fee without sufficient information [provided to GEMA] about the used repertoire and the number of streams. GEMA refuses this offer by YouTube because it is impossible to calculate a fair remuneration without the requested information and to pay this remuneration in an adequate way to GEMA's members."

There is also a financial dispute over the rate to be paid. According to GEMA, it offered a rate of €0.01 (1.3 cents) per stream and says Google/YouTube refused this offer.

"This €0.01 for an interim solution is already too much and actually GEMA demands €0.12 [15.9 cents] per stream for a long-term agreement," says Hamburg-based Google spokesman Hennig Dorstewitz.

Heker commented: "Other European collection societies are in the same difficult position to succeed [in negotiations] with Google/YouTube with their request for proper notifications and a reasonable remuneration. GEMA is ready for this conflict in order to protect the interests of the authors, represented by GEMA. The German authors are upset and [they] criticize YouTube's business methods."

Meanwhile, U.K. music bodies the Musicians Union and Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) have given their backing to PRS For Music in its dispute with Google.

"We condemn Google's use of its near-monopoly to dictate terms to PRS For Music," said an FAC statement. "We ask them to get their tanks off our lawn and to either accept the decision of the Copyright Tribunal or else negotiate a reasonable offer based on a transparent analysis of YouTube's advertising revenue income."

PRS For Music said its negotiating position on rates was based on the ruling of the U.K. Copyright Tribunal in July 2007.