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Can’t see this in Germany? Here’s why…

Every time we put up a scintillating video, we get complaints from Germany that readers can’t see it.

GEMA, the performance rights society, has set up a Berlin Wall against foreign videos.

They got challenged at Midem. Here’s how they justified the Honecker position.


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  1. Gerhard Torges says:

    Why are you doing pro YouTube propaganda using the term “Honecker position”?
    GEMA’s goals are clear and open: Fair compensation for composers and open contracts.
    YouTube is the one blocking.
    They block the negotiations as they block the videos.
    Often a video is blocked one day and visible again 24 hours later.
    There is no legal reason behind YouTube’s decision what they block and what they don’t.
    Instead, YouTube uses their blocking as a means of propaganda against GEMA!

    • Marius Felix Lange says:

      Yes Mr. Torges is right. This is absolut nonsense and mere yt-propaganda. You can’t even see Videos with music of Mozart, Chopin, Wagner etc., which has absolutely nothing to do with GEMA. google (yt) just tries to create bad feelings against the GEMA.

    • Benjamin Gordon says:

      it’s for articles like this that make slipped disc so interesting. As a German resident, I have long been irritated by the blocking measures on youTube which often block the most innocuous videos. It hadn’t occurred to me that these were instigated by Google and not the GEMA, however it certainly makes sense in a lot of cases, as many of the artists are too far under the radar to be covered by the GEMA. Let’s not jump on Norman but use this blog to share information, even when the blog’s author has a penchant for provocative metaphors.

  2. Alexander Hall says:

    The closed shop and restrictive practices are alive and kicking in Germany. The famous model of efficiency and free market enterprise isn’t half as open to change as some might have us think. Even today there is a fixed price agreement for all books, including those sold by Amazon in the country. Try and find a single discounted book anywhere – you won’t. Germany was one of the last places in Europe to liberalise shop opening hours. For years a tight-run cartel of trade unions, the equivalent of the Lord’s Day Observance Society and others trumpeted it would be the end of all things civilised. Angela Merkel screamed her disgust when a Spanish company wanted to take over the leading German construction company Hochtief. And, and, and. The sad saga of GEMA and the way international cable channels are expected to pay horrendous fees before they can have access to the German media are further examples.

    • Gerhard Torges says:

      Not everything “new” and “modern” is also good.

      The “Buchpreisbindung” [1] (English: Fixed price agreement [2]) has served the Germany and other countries [3] very well as it ensures protection for small local book dealers against big businesses focusing on selling bestsellers for ridiculously low prices. Thanks to it, in these countries books ara available in a wide variety from bestsellers to crude niche works throughout the country. Nearly every title not in stock can be delivered within 1 or 2 days.
      I am very glad we have the Buchpreisbindung, and I’m pretty much sure I’m not alone.

      “Liberating” working hours and shop opening times mostly liberates the companies offering less pay for more or later work. It’s good tradition to close most businesses on sundays. Everyone knows this is the time for friends and family.

      Call me old-fashioned, but I like it that way.

      [3] France, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Hungary

      • Gerhard, what is it that makes you think that just because -you- say it is good to close businesses on Sundays, just because -you- want Sundays to be for friends and family; that these things mean you should be allowed to dictate what the rest of the populace may or may not do with their own time?

        I freelance. I choose when to work and when not to; or more to the point, often my clients do. I make time for my friends and family, but often that is in the middle of the week. So what? As a freelancer, a Sunday is like any other day. Why should your desire for Sunday to be special or different impact my life? If a shop wishes to open on a Sunday, and if I wish to shop in it, why should you restrict that? Does it directly harm you?

        Likewise a fixed-price arrangement for books. Just because you don’t mind paying a higher price for books, or think everyone should do so, if someone wants to sell me a book at a discounted price, and I am willing to pay it, why should you be allowed to dictate what two mutually consenting parties can agree to – over buying a book, for goodness sake?!

        • Fabio Fabrici says:

          A sunday is not like any other day. We should keep at least one day of ceased commercial activities and mental rest. I’m agnostic btw.

      • Gerhard Torges says:

        BTW: Why have the Wikipedia links in my previous post been removed without notice?
        This affects my intellectusl property rights!

  3. Michael Endres says:

    GEMA has a long tradition in fair compensation of composers and open contracts.

    “On September 28, 1933, the State-Approved Society for the Exploitation of Musical Performing Rights (German: Staatlich genehmigten Gesellschaft zur Verwertung musikalischer Aufführungsrechte; STAGMA) arose out of the Verband zum Schutze musikalischer Afführungsrechte für Deutschland and was issued a monopoly on the exercise of musical performing rights. The still-existing AMMRE was annexed into STAGMA in 1938. The Reichsmusikkammer (English: Reich Chamber of Music), under the direction of then-president Richard Strauss, stipulated in its guidelines that, “non-Aryans are categorically not to be viewed as bearers and stewards of German cultural goods.” This amounted to an occupational ban on the approximately 8000 Jews active in the Reichsmusikkammer. STAGMA was tightly enmeshed in the Nazi power structure, and the leading members of STAGMA were die-hard and voluntary Nazis. The CEO of STAGMA was Leo Ritter, who occupied the same position in the original GEMA and was in the habit of giving Hitler’s Mein Kampf as a prize to worthy employees.[10]

    STAGMA continued its work after the Second World War, but under the title of GEMA (Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte) starting from August 24, 1947.”
    (source : Wikipedia )

    • Gerhard Torges says:

      Didn’t expect Godwin’s law would come to show up so soon.
      If you got no argument, go Nazi? :(

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        Godwin’s law and the good old “guilty by association” fallacy. Mr. Enders, what’s wrong with an agency, that protects the rights of the composers, arrangers and libretto writers?

  4. Andrew Powell says:

    Agree 100% with Gerhard Torges, even as I suffer the consequences of GEMA’s position, being in Germany.

    The “Honecker” charge in its shallowness is really not worthy of Norman Lebrecht the journalist.

    • Not shallow at all, Andrew. Gema, in its obtuseness, thinks it can resist what the rest of the world has embraced. Some day, the wall will come down.

      • A collection society is trying to move towards a reasonable deal for its artists. How is this a bad thing?

        Rather than waiting for Germany to embrace some notion of “freedom”, can’t we wait for the rest of the world to embrace fairness? I hope things will move in that direction, not the other. Who cares if some videos are blocked in the mean time.

      • Andrew Powell says:

        We’ll have to agree to differ on this.

        GEMA isn’t being obtuse. It is standing up for what it believes in — and not everyone wants a tyranny of Google-owned YouTube!

        Talking of walls, isn’t GEMA officed atop the foundations of the beer hall of Putsch fame? Let’s give them credit for doing nobler work.

  5. Sorry, but your post is completely wrong:
    1. Apart from about ten videos GEMA doesn’t demand the blocking of videos on YouTube.
    2. This blocking has nothing to do with “foreign” videos.

    Responsible for (almost all) blocked music videos are the labels: The labels provide the content IDs to identify their intellectual properties and they decide if a video gets blocked or not.

    This conflict is part of the bigger struggle about the distribution of digital revenues between labels/artists and writers/publishers.

    And don’t forget: YouTube is just a front for VEVO. And who owns VEVO? The Universal Music Group & Sony Music Entertainment.

    • Explain to us why Germany is the only country where these restrictions apply.

      • Timon Wapenaar says:

        Because the Germans are the only ones willing to stand up to the Google juggernaut?

      • GEMA had a deal with YouTube, which expired around 2010. After the terrible deal PRS for Music did (in 2009?) – lump payment (or minuscule participation based on YouTube revenue) – GEMA wanted more transparency & a payment based on actual music use (pay per play).

      • Gerhard Torges says:

        Easy: Because GEMA is strong, and YouTube is lying.

        • What is your evidence that Youtube is lying. And why do you think Germany can stand alone? You may need to state your credentials in this dispute.

          • Would you suggest GEMA to ignore german copyright law and act against its members’ interest, just for the reason that there’s different legislation somewhere else in the world? Let me remind you that US law doesn’t apply worldwide.
            I guess I’m now going to understand France’s fear of America’s cultural imperialism (which in fact is Big Business imperialism).
            As for the credentials, what are the facts that make you believe that it’s GEMA who is lying?

  6. Mr. Hall, this is slightly off-topic, but of course you can find discounted books in Germany, f.e. in the numerous “Moderne Antiquariate” all over the country. To understand the general situation, please check the term “Buchpreisbindung”, a system by far not exclusive to Germany.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      I am not talking about “Remittenden”; I am talking about any newly published work. No bookshop in Germany will sell you such a work of fiction or non-fiction at below the “fixed” price, whereas booksellers in the UK and elsewhere are entirely free to set their own prices. Why do you think there are so many people now using online pharmacies which offer the same products at considerably lower prices than what you would have to pay at any “Apotheke? And then work out the huge profit margins that these retailers (booksellers, pharmacists and others) are making as a result. Freie Marktwirtschaft? What a huge joke!

      • God save your prejudice. If the traditional neighbourhood bookstore really collects “huge profit margins” why do so many of them go bankrupt? Truth is, Germans got more and more used to order their books at Amazon in spite of Buchpreisbindung, just because it is convenient not to get up from the sofa. As Amazon has got the size, and thus purchasing power, to extrude enormous rebates out of the publishers, it cashes in a much higher margin than its small incumbent competitors. And as it is based in Luxembourg (the EU’s equivalent to Delaware), in can take advantage of a significantly lower sales tax rate. So who’s the one who makes the money? (Maybe there’ll be a backlash now since the public has learned that Amazon isn’t quite the kind of employer you’d wish to work for.)
        And don’t forget: For almost 50 years, Germans have been practicing not “Freie” but “Soziale” Marktwirtschaft.
        (It would be off-topic to explain why you are also pretty wrong about the pharmacy market.)
        Maybe you want to talk to a small book dealer or pharmacist before you continue writing comments on these issues…

        • OK – so if you don’t really like Amazon, why do you want to defend a law which hands far higher profits to Amazon than they would gain if they could set their own price which would inevitably be lower, to the benefit of all Germans who buy books there?

        • Alexander Hall says:

          It’s like the kettle calling the pot black, isn’t it? You are entitled to your own opinions, even if they also reek of prejudices. The general point I was making is that Germany is full of cartels, even if it pretends otherwise. Nothing you have said disproves that general point. And while you are accusing others of unjustified prejudices, have a look at the way every petrol station puts its prices up and down SEVERAL TIMES A DAY and, honi soit qui mal y pense, every competing petrol station on the same street keeps in tune with those changes. What on earth is “sozial” about that?

  7. Well, I’m glad my royalties as a composer are at least collected in Germany regardless of how small the venue is. Also, I’m paid by the GEMA according to the length of the work and the forces involved, and this has nothing to do with how much money the promoter might claim to have made or lost. A very fair system, thank you Richard Strauss. And a far cry from the deplorable situation in the UK, as any fule kno.

  8. Bang Bang says:

    The solution is very simple. Subscribe to an anonymous browsing (VPN; virtual private network) service like Cyberghost, and login to the internet via one of their servers in UK or Switzerland (or many other locations). Low cost per month. To youtube your location then appears to be outside of Germany. Bob’s your Onkel.

    • Gerhard Torges says:

      Very good “solution”, stealing the artist’s royalties. :(

      • Diamanda Gross says:

        If I am an American travelling in Germany, and I am subsequently restricted to what I can see (things that I could have seen if my IP originated in the US) then how am I stealing artist royalties?

        • Gerhard Torges says:

          The law is that streams have to be licensed based on territory.
          IP addresses are used to determine the territory a user is currently in.
          This method may have it faults, but it’s mostly working.
          So if your desired content is not licensed by the content provider for the territory you’re in, you can’t watch it legally.
          Simple as that.

          And by the way: most of the blocked music videos can be watched in Gemany using other video platforms like which actually have agreements with GEMA.

  9. Germans, have no fear! is here!

  10. Sir:

    On the basis of the article on Digital Music News, it sounds like the issue is that some Youtube videos are being blocked in Germany because they contain intellectual property that has not been licenced for that territory. Just as with any other website with operations in Germany, the onus falls wholly to Youtube to obtain a licence on the terms set by GEMA, not for Youtube to dictate unreasonable (insofar as the rate is probably well below that required of other websites, and it cannot be disclosed even to members of the collection society) terms to which too many collection societies (including PRS) have capitulated.

    That videos which do not contain copyright material are also being filtered manifests the poor quality of Youtube’s filtering mechanisms and metadata. Until all metadata are improved so as to flag copyright material more reliably (a matter that should be the responsibility of both content uploaders and Youtube), such crude filters are — unfortunately — a justified and proportionate measure.

    I also find the mechanisms for reporting copyright infringement woefully inadequate: not only is it a requirement to have a Youtube account to report, but the reporter is required to be the copyright owner, and required to make a legally binding declaration to that effect. No copyright owner can reasonably be expected to monitor the whole internet for infringement, so it should surely be possible for third parties to report infringement they encounter: when I browse Youtube, I frequently find cases of blatant copyright infringement (e.g.: tracks of recent commercially released CDs).

    In conclusion, GEMA is to be lauded for holding Google to account for the latter’s persistenly scant efforts to fulfill its legal and moral responsibilities to intellectual property‐holders (for those unconvinced of the importance of such responsibilities, I commend to their attention the following article: ).

    And before anybody suggests that improving the deficient infrastructure detailed above were impracticable, it is worth pointing out that the IMSLP (also known as the Petrucci Music Library) is, on the whole, very good at scrutinising the copyright status of its material: its infrastructure — which, furthermore, is run by unpaid volunteers — is an example that should be commended to Youtube — a website that earns a windfall in advertising revenue and is owned by one of the world’s richest corporations — and many more websites besides.

  11. I live in Germany. So many videos are blocked on YouTube I can’t keep up with what’s happening in the world. It really is like being blocked behind an ideological wall. The practice also has the characteristics of an embargo. I thus subscribed to a VPN service and can watch what I need to. I am a composer. I have the deepest disregard for the music industry. The model used to collect royalities for media is anachroinistic and stressed in Germany to the point of absurdity. Germany needs to give up its “Sonderweg” in this regard and enter the 21st century.

    • We are, not for the first time, einstimmig.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        the GEMA is not the music industry. They are also not “collecting royalties for media”. It’s the total opposite. They collect royalties *from* the media. For the artists.

        The GEMA is an agency that protects the copyright of composers, authors, arrangers. Youtube/Google on the other hand is a Mega corporation that does not want to pay for content it intends to use for it’s commercial interests. I’m flabbergasted on which side you are positioning yourself, just because in Germany the convenience of watching any video online is denied by Google(!) due to the resistance of GEMA to surrender to their demands.

        Too bad it takes a country as big as Germany and big on musical tradition too, to protect the Artists against the exploitation by the big business. Some other nations are resisting too (france?) but the rest of the world has already fallen.

    • Michael Endres says:

      I am agreeing here with both William and Norman ( a historic moment , to be cherished ,now it’s dreistimmig). You Tube is a unique library of music resources . From Gregorian Chant to Unsuk Chin one can learn and share . My students,colleagues,we all benefit from it greatly. It has become a musical Wikipedia.To block most of that is not an enlightened decision,its a fossilized approach in a world that has moved on and needs new answers to new technologies.

      There are also other problems with GEMA: I have experienced quite a number of concert societies in Germany ,smaller ones, who are forced to tell their artists not to play anything that attracts royalty payment. I remember the absurdity of it: regardless how many tickets were sold,even if it was for charity, GEMA had their masterplan how much it cost ,and it easily ran,even in very small venues, into sums which became completely unaffordable for quite some societies. I am naturally not against royalties ,but the system seems to have some kind of stone age approach .Is GEMA’s hard nosed way really the big saviour of culture here ? “Yeahbutnobut” ( Vicky Pollard ).

      • Sir:

        I think the analogy between Youtube and a library overlooks one crucial issue, which is that Youtube is a commercial enterprise run by Google for profit. A corporate monopoly is not an appropriate model to fulfill the remit of global musical archive, and even if it were not a commercial entity that already has market dominance, Google should not be made exempt from the royalty licencing requirements to which any other website is subject.

        The IMSLP and Project Gutenberg, to name two examples, serve as far better models for online libraries: the metadata are properly organised (cf. the library catalogue) and copyright adherence is taken seriously. What we need is an equivalent for copyright material that is legal (I would suggest opt‐in, although other material could perhaps be collected and stored under embargo until it passes into the public domain), not for profit, and pays fair royalties to copyright holders.

        I cannot comment on GEMA’s pricing model and its impact on concert societies, since I am ignorant on the subject, but if it is true that it inhibits music in copyright from being performed, that is certainly an issue. Based on what I have read on this thread, however, I am placed under the impression that GEMA is better and more equitable than PRS (which is the truly technologically backward player here insofar as it persists in relying on small samples to calculate distributions, a model that might be amenable to ubiquitously played chart‐topping pop music, but not to contemporary classical music, most of which gets very few performances and thus never makes it into the sample).

    • Gerhard Torges says:

      YouTube isn’t about “the world”, nor is it about “free speech”.
      Learn to look beyond!

  12. Is it possible to avoid the restrictions with an encryption program like the public domain one created by the TOR project or a commercial one like Intego which works for both MACs and PCs?

  13. Well you would expect a woman to sit on the fence. The performer in me is with the Germans, ensure the composer and artists get paid for their work. The teacher finds this a pity.

    You tube is a wonderful resource from which to learn. The number of excellent performances…and not so excellent performances that can be used as study examples are excellent.

    Now as a woman, one would expect me to want my cake and eat it (Do keep up folks, I’m a Soprano too!) and in this case it should be possible, provided Google/you tube get enough revenue from their advertisers and pass it on to GEMA and the PRS, and then that is passed on to the right people.

    However, that is as likely as Hell freezing.

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