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Germans can’t get Youtube…. but Vevo’s coming their way

The German copyright agency causes access to be blocked to millions of videos on Youtube, to the intense frustration of music seekers and Slipped Disc readers.

There will be a small crack in the prohibitive wall when Vevo launches in Germany in a couple of months. Vevo is a joint venture of the two music giants, Universal (Vivendi) and Sony. They’ve done a deal with the copyright agency.

The downside is that it will launch just 75,000 music clips, overwhelmingly pop, in a bid to make a new MTV. Read here. Serious seekers will continue to be poorly served.


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  1. To avoid misunderstandings: the gema has no authority to block any videos on youtube. It’s youtube itself.

  2. Why is that the case, Alexander?

  3. Orchestermusiker says:

    Correct, as Alexander wrote it is youtube itself imposing some kind of self-censorship to avoid legal problems and claims to pay Gema fees for the content.
    Plenty of free software / browser plugins available to get access though.

  4. Yes, youtube does not want to pay for the content they want to use freely to make money with it. Now everybody blames Gema, who is an entity protecting the rights of musicians. Now why a music blog sides with the “capitalist pigs” at youtube and against the musician’s interest is beyond me.

    • John Hames says:

      That’s over-simplifying matters somewhat! Yes, Youtube/Google are in it for the money, we all know that. But even if we’re only talking about classical, it’s far from clear that Youtube operates “against the musician’s interest”. If you baulk at postings of copyrighted recorded material, there are still gazillions of clips put up by musicians themselves, e.g. young conductors and soloists putting themselves in the shop window, and huge amounts of documentary material and out-of-print recordings — in short, a tremendous resource for the classical music aficionado and student. This leads on to the wider question about copyright in a digital age. Gema etc. may think they’re protecting musicians, but it’s so short-termist. They’re just peeing into the hurricane. It is absolutely impossible to stop material being freely disseminated these days: this must, or surely should, have been realised two or three decades ago by record companies, etc., yet they have lazily tried to go on as before, sending out their lawyers on futile sorties against members of the public. If it isn’t Youtube, which at least is the devil you know, it’ll be someone else. Musicians are going to have find new ways of making their art pay — and I speak as one. Rhere are ways emerging. For instance, Berlin’s Digital Concert Hall presents material of supreme technological as well as artistic quality, and I for one am happy to pay money to get it. But even in their case they’re trying to cling on to old ways, attempting to make it impossible to download and keep their transmissions, which surely most people would like to be able to do? There are ways round the block, of course. There always are.

      • The reason much Youtube material is redacted in Germany is because Youtube has been unable to arrive at an acceptable licencing agreement to GEMA. The principal reason for this is because Youtube insists that the details of any licencing agreement be kept confidential, even from GEMA’s membership. GEMA is to be lauded for refusing to acquiese to such gagging clauses (unfortunately, PRS, of which I am a member, did acquiese to Google’s demands, which means that we do not know how any royalty payments in respect of Youtube media are calculated). Another major issue is that the quality of the metadata attached to Youtube clips is often very questionable, and disorganised. Many copyright holders do not get attributed, and the mechanism for reporting infringements seems to be designed to inhibit reports: you have to hold a Youtube account and be the copyright owner to be able to report infringement (some of the big record companies have automated bots which strike far too many false positives, and most people simply do not have the time and resources to trawl Youtube for infringement).

        I very much hope that Vevo has more reliable metadata and a robust copyright review mechanism, with a means for *any* “concerned [human] citizen” of the internet to report infringement. Such infrastructure is eminently feasible, manifested by the IMSLP. Of course, it is not in Google’s financial interest to implement it and thus to help intellectual-property holders receive fair renumeration, whilst the present, inadequate infrastructure of Youtube continues to be allowed to stand with impunity in most territories.

  5. Yes, it is youtube which blocks even music from the middleage saying GEMA blocks it. And this music is way far away from copyrights! And the GEMA has absolutely no control to block any content. Please Mr. Lebrecht correct your statement. Thank you.

  6. Neil van der Linden says:

    What kind of youtube clips will be blocked?
    Is this another step away from the free internet, to be replaced by a consortium of powerful companies (youtube is part of Google itself by the way) as well as the nasty side of our states, as Snowden and Greenwald recently have revealed again?

    • They (googleyoutube) block any clips saying because of GEMA we are sorry you can’t see the clip. This is such a lie! Why should GEMA block music which is 100-200 years old and free of copyrights?! Youtube is playing a bad game!

      • Neil van der Linden says:

        Meanwhile against our will the Silicon Valley companies are selling our private data to obscure and uncontrollable parts of the state, which isnt there for us, it seems, but for the interest of the big companies.

      • Re: “Why should GEMA block music which is 100–200 years old and free of copyrights?! Youtube is playing a bad game!”

        Tempting as it is to accuse Youtube of arbitrarily blocking out-of-copyright clips in order to add fuel to the fire of public resentment against intellectual-property holders trying to earn fair renumeration for their hard work (and it bears reiterating that the overwhelming majority of composers, even the famous ones with Grove entries, earn very little in royalties — not enough to earn a living by itself).

        There are two reasons that occur to me for the aforementioned sort of blocking:

        1. The bots utilised by big record companies/Google/&c. to automatically block copyright material frequently strike false positives, some of which have been documented in this weblog.

        2. Intellectual property rights apply to the performer as well as the composer. Thus, whilst the composer may have been dead for over 70 years (as of the *start* of the current calendar year), the performer may still be alive/has been dead for less than or equal to 70 years (as of the *start* of the current calendar year).

  7. Most of the comments here, according to their particular agenda, are only telling half truths. Learn more here:

    and here:

    • Both of these articles are bias in favour of Youtube. The statement from Dorstewitz, in the first article (under the subheading “Destined for failure”), manifests the rot in Youtube’s mindset: you have to be the copyright owner to report the infringement — how many copyright owners have the time and resources to trawl the whole of Youtube (let alone the world wide web as a whole) for infringement? Why is it not permissible for concerned (human) citizens to report suspected or blatant infringement (IMSLP does not have a problem with this)? As for the Wikipedia article, it read like a press release from Google (I have just edited it to add some balance).

      • GEMA’s mentality is anachronistic. YouTube is an excellent publicity tool for composers, but GEMA also blocks the videos of its own members, even when they are trying to publicize works that have little commercial value. I live in Germany and am so glad I am not a member of GEMA and can thus put videos of my work on YouTube. Even the music industry and the the few artists it serves are losing millions due to GEMA blocking YouTube. (It’s also part of an ethnocentric mentality that views things foreign with suspicion.)

        In reality, the blocking is an embargo that GEMA is using to leverage power for a few select composers while the vast majority of its members are neglected. This is typical of the organization. Even back in the 80s I used to have a small company make about 20 demo cassette copies of some of my compositions. GEMA would make me pay for each cassette, but never returned the royalties to me. The money flowed to GEMA insiders. YouTube has entered into 20 agreements with collection societies from 33 countries. Eventually GEMA will wake up and enter the 21st century too, though not after many composers in Germany who are not among the few GEMA insiders have been harmed.

        • Oh William Osborne. You will wait for the day when youtube says “we are sorry but this content isn’t available in your country”. So it happens to many composers of the baroque and medieval century. They are all GEMA members?

        • Mr. Osborne, your statement is giving false and distorted information.
          I guess you didn’t see “your” money as a composer, because you simply had forgotten to register in that capacity with Gema properly. Hardly Gema’s fault then.

          • My info is correct. Composers should not have to jump through GEMA’s ridiculous, anachronistic hoops to publicize their work — hoops that serve a small clique in the music industry at the expense of at least 95% or the organization’s members. It’s just more music industry racketeering. Outside of a few pop stars, YouTube videos are not products, they are an advertising platform — and even the pop stars object to GEMA’s stance.

            Even the German press has come down on GEMA. The Süddeutsche Zeitung comments on the absurdity of the situation, noting how the video “Gangnam Style” has received 1.2 billion hits but is blocked in Germany. The paper notes how GEMA’s backward attitude is blocking Germany from the largest cultural archive in the world. See:


            Anyway, tell us more nonsense about how GEMA isn’t blocking YouTube….

          • Neil van der Linden says:

            In the case of Gangnam Style both the artist and record company were out on having as many youtube hits as possible. So who was protecting whom when the clip was banned from Germany’s Youtube?

          • Mr. Osborne, you are making no sense. If you don’t register with Gema, how are they supposed to know about your claim? You are also dishonest in stating hurdles to publicize your work. But that is not the case. You can publish away without any hurdles. Earlier you had complained that you didn’t receive royalties for your compositions, blaming Gema. But now we learn, that you simply didn’t bother to let them know that you want to collect your share.
            This is shameful behavior on your part, blaming now Gema for it, while in fact you had not registered with them.

            In case of royalties collected for artists, that are not known to Gema, the proceedings are shared with it’s member base.

          • The company the made the copies registered them with GEMA.

          • Your publisher registering your works with them is not enough. You also have to be registered as an “Urheber” (Creator) with them personally.
            Here is the link for you:

            Your money went to all registered members of GEMA then, in case you generated some through public performances or recordings.

      • Sasha Valeri Millwood says:

        Postscript: please accept my apologies for the grammatical lapses in my comments (the comment directly above should have commenced, “Both of these articles are biased in favour…”; the comment in response to DennisK has an unfinished sentence, because I decided to place a paragraph break before the final clause; and the comment in response to John Hames has a minor syntactical error).

  8. GEMA used legal actions to force YouTube to block countless videos. See: “German court orders Google to police YouTube copyright violations”

    • Good for them. You Tube must pay for what they want to profit from.

      • The point is to correct the above intentionally misleading comments that YouTube is behind the blocking and not GEMA.

        • If youtube does want to dictate unreasonable conditions on Gema, as is the case here, then who are you to say, that it’s Gema’s fault and not Youtube’s?
          Because also in this matter you have a personal axe to grind for something that happened many years ago?

          • David, it seems this is a matter of semantics. GEMA clearly feel the deal YouTube are offering is not enough for them or their members. YouTube clearly feel that a deal GEMA would agree too is not commercially viable (i.e. if they have to pay more in royalty or equivalent payments then they expect to receive in advertising revenue over and above operating costs). Whether you choose to blame YouTube for being unfair or GEMA for being old-fashioned is up to you, but I don’t think the blame attached securely to only one side or the other.

          • 33 countries have made agreements with YouTube, but of course, Germany is special….or so we are to believe.

          • @Anon: It’s not only about money. AFAIK Gema refuses the condition by Youtube, that the small print of the deal has to remain confidential and even Gema’s membership would not be allowed to know the details. That is simply against Gema’s bylaws, and rightfully so they refuse this sneaky dealings by Youtube.

            @Mr. Osborne: 33 countries rolled over, because they have little or nothing in musician and intellectual property protection to counter Youtube’s corporate power. Germany is a little better positioned with it’s traditionally strong lobbies for the musicians’ and composers’ copyrights. Good for Germany and their musical world I would say.

            What deeply saddens me, is to see how we in the MUSICAL world are divided over this issue, with many attacking the musician’s protector, the Gema.
            Is it only, because the Germanophobic feelings of many take precedence over their common sense and empathy?

          • 33 countries have made agreements with YouTube because they realize the immense value of the platform for musicians in the 21st century. As soon as GEMA takes off their powdered wigs, they’ll join the rest of the world.

          • The “immense value” of the platform is overhyped. Actually recorded music is not very big in it’s general value, in some aspects it’s even damaging to the music world and the overall well being of musical life.
            It’s much more valuable, if you sing a song in the shower in the morning yourself, as technically mediocre as it may be, than playing a clip on youtube without any deeper musical meaning.

            The classical music world has done very well fro centuries, all without the internet or Youtube, possibly also because it didn’t exist. It’s simply not important, it’s a deflection from the really important issues.

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