At GEMA's annual general meeting held in Berlin, GEMA CEO Dr. Harald Heker appealed to YouTube to commence serious negotiations once and for all and to sign a license contract guaranteeing the providers of content reasonable and appropriate remuneration.

"Any author wants his work to be heard as much as possible and YouTube has become an important marketing instrument for many artists," he said.

However, he went on to say that it was not acceptable for platforms such as YouTube to generate high profits without giving an appropriate return to rights holders. "Music has a value - YouTube knows that and it benefits from this," said Heker. "That's why YouTube must pay for the content which it uses. This is what we are aiming to achieve."

Heker went on to report that it had spent over one year in negotiations with YouTube for a new license contract covering the use of music content in Germany but that these efforts had been to no avail. Talks broke down in May (Billboard.biz, May 10).

"Copyright owners of music works which are used by YouTube have not been receiving any remuneration since April 2009. In mid May, GEMA called off negotiations with YouTube as it had not been willing to make sufficient compromises for more than a year."

GEMA wants the new fee arrangements with YouTube to include advertising revenue but also take account of YouTube's business performance.

According to Heker, this has prompted GEMA to change its strategy and to establish an international alliance of nine European and North American collection societies. The alliance includes AKM (Austria), ASCAP (United States), BMI (United States), GEMA (Germany), SABAM (Belgium), SACEM (France), SESAC (United States), SIAE (Italy) and SUISA (Switzerland).

They called on YouTube to take down around 600 works that are no longer under a licenses agreement, following the expiration of the previous deal in March 2009.

"We are aware that this is not an easy task but technically YouTube would be quite capable of doing it. If necessary, we will be taking legal action to ensure that this is done," said Heker.

Sources close to GEMA say that YouTube has been monitored very closely over the past few months to determine whether there are any signs that it is complying with this request.

From November 2007 onwards, YouTube was authorized to utilize GEMA repertoire. At the end of March 2009, GEMA declared that negotiations for a continuation of the agreement had failed. Since then, the artists represented by GEMA have not been receiving any royalties from YouTube.

At the time, YouTube was believed to be interested in paying solely a flat-rate fee. GEMA is requesting more precise information on the titles which had been accessed and the levels of streaming. The collecting society wants a fairer distribution to copyright holders and publishers of the royalties received.

In Germany, GEMA represents the copyrights of more than 60,000 members (composers, lyricists, and music publishers), and GEMA also represents over 1 million copyright owners all over the world. Worldwide, it is one of the largest societies for authors of music works.

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