German collecting society GEMA has ordered YouTube to remove 600 videos by its members from the video-sharing platform's German service, after contract renewal talks broke down.

GEMA has taken a defiant stand against YouTube and won the support of eight international societies: AKM (Austria), ASCAP (United States), BMI (United States), SABAM (Belgium), SACEM (France), SESAC (United States), SIAE (Italy) and SUISA (Switzerland). The move could lead to international repertoire from those societies being blocked in Germany, too.

Talks had been taking place for more than a year, before GEMA decided to act today (May 10). Its 18-month contract with YouTube expired March 31, 2009 and it is understood GEMA wanted assurances that a new deal would include a share of advertising revenue and take account of YouTube's revenue growth.

"In collaboration with eight other international collection societies, GEMA wants to take a stand and stress the fact that music has its price," said GEMA CEO Dr. Harald Heker.

In addition, GEMA will be refusing in the future to comply with YouTube's request for confidential negotiations.

"The problem of unauthorized utilization of copyrights on the Internet has assumed international proportions," added Heker. "Platforms such as YouTube do not operate solely at a national level. This is forcing us to operate internationally and to join forces with eight other collection societies to form an alliance. Together, this international alliance represents around 60% of the world's repertoire."

GEMA declined to disclose details of the tracks it was seeking to have removed. The targeting of 600 videos appears to be a major shot across the bows.

"We do not want to penalize YouTube users," said Dr. Urban Pappi, broadcasting and online director of GEMA. "Rather, we want to show Google what we would be capable of doing if we wanted."

Heker added: "The international alliance of music authors could remove all their works from YouTube if they wanted. However, they will be refraining from this in the interests of music users and copyright holders. The copyright holders want their music to be heard as much as possible - provided that it is properly licensed."

Since the end of the contract, artists represented by GEMA have not been receiving any royalties from YouTube. Heker said GEMA wanted to secure a new "mutually acceptable" agreement with YouTube.

"Operators of online platforms such as YouTube which generate advertising revenues in the millions from the use of copyrighted content must ensure that those who create such works and supply the content are remunerated appropriately," said Heker. GEMA declined to disclose the payments it had received from YouTube.

Gernot Graninger, CEO of the Austrian collection society AKM in Vienna, said in a statement that the "authors have to participate in a reasonable and fair way in YouTube's income."

Google's Patrick Walter, director video partnerships EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), issued a statement regretting that negotiations with GEMA have been abandoned. But he warned that "too high costs" for services such as YouTube could prevent online distribution of music content and remove a revenue stream for the music industry and artists.

"We have deals with collection societies all over the world, including U.K., the Netherlands, Japan, Korea and more," he added. "Therefore GEMA's decision to stop the negotiations is even more disappointing. The more popular the music videos are, the more money YouTube can make and share it with the collection societies and the authors represented by them. Nobody can expect that YouTube is going into a business where it loses money each time a music video is [played]. This simply is not sustainable."

In Germany, GEMA represents the copyrights of more than 60,000 members (composers, lyricists, and music publishers), and it also represents over 1 million copyright owners all over the world.

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