YouTube Reaches Deal With French Rights Holders

YouTube (s GOOG) and the French music rights group SACEM have reached a royalty agreement that will compensate rights holders for the use of their music in YouTube videos accessed by French users, the two parties announced today. The deal is the first of its kind in France.

It will be retroactively applied to all works since YouTube’s launch in France in 2007, and will expire in 2012, after which the two parties will have to renegotiate. Details of the agreements are not available, but SACEM CEO Bernard Miyet called it “a well-balanced result,” and YouTube’s director for European partnerships Christophe Muller went on the record saying that Google was “extremely pleased to have reached an agreement with SACEM.”

That’s not all press release hyperbole, as YouTube has been struggling to seal deals with some European rights holders. Things are particularly difficult in Germany, where music rights group GEMA is pursuing YouTube in court after negotiations broke down earlier this year. GEMA has been demanding that YouTube blocks hundreds of songs of its rights holders in absence of an agreement, and tried to get a preliminary injunction against the site in August. A local court rejected his request. This led to a full-blown lawsuit by GEMA, which is currently pending.

At the core of the dispute is the question of how and how much YouTube has to pay to GEMA. The group is asking to be compensated per play, but YouTube insists on a revenue-sharing deal instead, which is widely assumed to be the way the French deal is structured as well. A YouTube spokesperson told us back in May that per-play deals are out of the question:

“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.”

Update: YouTube spokesperson Chris Dale got in touch with me to dispute the notion that YouTube has been struggling to seal deals in Europe. “We actually have signed deals (with) the UK, the Italian and now the French collection societies,” he wrote, adding: “I’d say that’s some good momentum.”

Image courtesy of (CC-BY-SA) Flickr user MPD01605.

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