An uprising against GEMA on account of its business practices is being organized on the official Web site of the German Lower House of Parliament, the Bundestag in Berlin.

A petition against the German collection society has already attracted over 106,000 online signatures. Following the German federal elections on September 27, 2009, members of parliament will be holding an open hearing at which they will be discussing alleged breaches of the constitution and copyright law by GEMA and consulting on legislative initiatives.

According to sources within the CDU/CSU parliamentary party in the Bundestag, there are plans for the ministry of justice to prepare a bill after the German federal elections with the purpose of imposing restrictions on GEMA in the interests of fairer treatment for its 60,000 members.

This criticism was first leveled against GEMA by Monika Bestle, the managing director of the Kulturwerkstatt (cultural center) in Sonthofen, Bavaria. In a petition, she called for a comprehensive reform of all aspects of GEMA, particularly the treatment of small concert promoters as well as the methods for calculating royalties for GEMA members, simplified terms and conditions as well as the transparency of and enhancements to collection arrangements.

Says Monika Bestle, "Over many years, concert promoters and artists have become so frustrated that we plan to set up a self-help group to monitor GEMA."

She adds that GEMA allows only a small group of members to share in its income. "We will not be giving up until GEMA changes as otherwise it will tear itself apart through the conflicts with its members," she says.

Bestle stresses that the petition does not seek to abolish GEMA. "Intellectual property must be protected," she says. "However, we want the members of GEMA and of other collection societies to get what they are entitled to receive."

By way of example, Monika Bestle explained that some concerts have an audience of 100. The GEMA license fee for this is €87 ($122) plus VAT sales tax. In some cases it can be a loss-making transaction particularly for venues seeking to give up-and-coming young talent an opportunity, she says.

"The fees are often higher than the takings. Despite GEMA's hardship rules, small venues are driven into bankruptcy," explains Monika Bestle. GEMA's response to this is that the copyright holder cannot be made responsible for the concert promoter's business failure."

SPD member of the Bundestag Monika Griefahn says, "We have called for many improvements in GEMA. A wide-ranging process of preparation is now underway in the Federal Ministry of Justice in order to draw up possible initiatives for changes in the law on this basis. The SPD parliamentary party will be monitoring this process and will push for any corrections required in the next legislative period."

Says GEMA CEO Dr. Harald Heker, "GEMA takes account of the needs of small concert organizers by offering a wide range of special rates and discounts at many levels. These various discounts have been combined and published in the interests of greater transparency and details can also be examined by all concert promoters online at GEMA.de." He adds that in spring 2009 GEMA unveiled its multi-level model aimed at encouraging young talent.

"GEMA always sends polite replies but nothing else ever happens," comments Bestle. "We will not be giving up until things change at GEMA."

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