Music Rights Holders to YouTube: Block Our Songs

Licensing negotiations between YouTube (s GOOG) and the German music rights group GEMA have broken down, and GEMA is now demanding that the video share site take down or block access to hundreds of works.

Representatives of GEMA announced today that they’ve struck an alliance with a number of international music licensing groups, including the U.S. performing rights organizations ASCAP, SESAC and BMI, to put pressure on the Google-owned site. A YouTube spokesperson told us that it is “disappointed in GEMA’s decision.” Negotiations between the two sides have been going on for more than a year, and YouTube already briefly blocked access to music videos in April of 2009.

GEMA sent a list of close to 600 works today, demanding that the site either take down or block access to videos making use of those works. GEMA representatives said during a press conference today that they want to send a signal to YouTube, but not prevent widespread access to videos on YouTube.

The list of titles that YouTube now has to block was chosen more or less at random and that it contains both well-known and lesser-known songs, according to GEMA representatives. The group reached out to ASCAP, SESAC and other international licensing partners, who contributed to the list with titles from their repertoire.

GEMA used to have a preliminary licensing agreement with YouTube, which expired at the end of Q1 2009. GEMA asked at the time for significantly higher rates, and YouTube responded by blocking access to countless music videos from Germany. The site restored access to these clips when both parties began licensing negotiations again. YouTube said at the time that GEMA’s demands were 50 times higher than what it was paying to the U.K. music rights group PRS. GEMA representatives called these numbers today false.

The rights group also took issue with YouTube’s previous demands to sign non-disclosure agreements related to any licensing contracts, calling the inability to tell its members and the public about any licensing terms “a big problem” and announcing that it won’t sign any further non-disclosure agreements.

A YouTube spokesperson told us that it is disappointed in GEMA’S decision to end licensing talks, continuing:

“YouTube… cannot be expected to engage in a business where it loses money every time a music video is played — that is simply not sustainable.”

Image courtesy (CC-BY-SA) of Flickr user currybet.

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