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YouTube Lifts Blackout in Finland Amid Royalty Rate Dispute

YouTube has restored hundreds of thousands of music videos to its service in Finland after temporarily blocking them as part of an ongoing dispute over royalty rates.

YouTube has restored hundreds of thousands of music videos to its service in Finland after temporarily blocking them as part of an ongoing dispute over royalty rates.

The blackout extended to domestic and international repertoire represented by Finnish collection society Teosto and began on the morning of November 30 when negotiations over a new licensing agreement between the two parties broke down.

After reaching a temporary agreement, YouTube began restoring access to music content later the same day and has since made all blocked content available again.

In a statement, YouTube’s director of international music publishing partnerships Sami Valkonen confirmed that some music content had been removed from YouTube in Finland “for less than 24 hours as we worked towards a solution with Teosto after our license expired.”

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YouTube is the largest and most popular music service in Finland with around 69 percent of music consumers using the platform, according to Teosto, which represents over 30,000 Finnish and almost three million international composers, lyricists, arrangers and music publishers.

In 2016, the organization paid out €60 million ($71 million) to music authors and publishers with just under half (€26 million) going to international rights holders.

Taking a stance that will echo with critics of the so-called value gap, the non-profit organisation believes that the popularity of music on YouTube is not reflected in the royalty payments it pays out to musicians.

“Teosto has had long negotiations with YouTube in good spirit,” reads a statement from the collecting society. It adds the “only goal for Teosto is to ensure the rights holders receive the compensation they deserve from the strong growth of YouTube in Finland.”

In an additional statement posted on Teosto’s website, the PRO goes on to say that having reached a “temporary accord” with Google, royalties covering the first half of 2017 will be paid to its members later this month.

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Billboard understands that negotiations between the two parties over a longer-term licensing agreement are still ongoing.

The dispute between Teosto and YouTube may have been quickly resolved (at least for now), but it is not the first time that the digital video giant has run into problems with European PROs.

German collection society GEMA fought with YouTube for seven years over what it viewed as low royalties, eventually reaching a licensing agreement in November 2016 that returned GEMA associated material to the platform.

Looking forward, bosses at the Google-owned platform will be keeping a keen eye on events in Brussels, where the European Parliament and Council is currently debating draft proposals around its revised copyright framework.

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First unveiled last September, those proposals — which form part of the EC’s Digital Single Market strategy — include user-generated services like YouTube being forced to pay more to rights holders, as well as taking tougher measures to prevent the illegal distribution of music and video content.

No doubt hoping to influence the decision making process, last month Spotify, Deezer and SoundCloud came together to help form Digital Music Europe (DME), an alliance of European digital music services looking to promote growth in the sector.

However that plays out, YouTube and Safe Harbor legislation are sure to be at the heart of the debate.