German GEMA in talks with YouTube on video dispute

BERLIN Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:53pm EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German music authors' society GEMA said on Thursday it was in talks with Google Inc's YouTube to resolve a dispute over royalty payments and the conditions under which music videos are made available online.

On March 31, after the failure of negotiations to renew a contract under which Google paid a set fee per streamed music video to GEMA, YouTube said it would block access to music videos in Germany of artists who are members of GEMA.

GEMA covers all artists belonging to EMI Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Vivendi's Universal Music Group.

"We're talking with YouTube again, negotiations are taking place, and there may be high-level talks in the coming weeks," GEMA Chief Executive Harald Heker said at the association's annual press conference in Berlin.

YouTube's Patrick Walker, director of video partnerships in Europe, wrote on a Google blog that the 12 cents per view being demanded by GEMA for continued cooperation was "without comparison in the history of online music."

Two weeks before the GEMA dispute arose, YouTube had temporarily blocked access to music videos on its site in the UK over a dispute with the British Performing Rights Society for Music (PRS) after a similar contract expired.

In the PRS case, Walker wrote on a YouTube blog: "The costs are simply prohibitive for us -- under PRS's proposed terms we would lose significant amounts of money with every playback."

GEMA's Heker, however, said the organization had offered one cent per stream, an offer that still stands. "I hope that we will be able to find a viable solution," Heker said, adding while the price was one of the issues that would be discussed in upcoming negotiations, more important was the information on what music was being used, and how much.

"We're not just talking about the amount of money, but the principle," he said.

If other high-tech companies could provide this information, then Google should be able to as well, Heker said.

(Reporting by Jacob Comenetz, editing by Will Waterman)

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