Why Sita Sings The Blues Is Perfectly Legal In Germany, But You Still Can't Watch It On YouTube

from the hello,-gema dept

Nina Paley, who regularly writes for Techdirt (as well as plenty of other publications) passed along this video she put up about how her movie, Sita Sings the Blues is blocked by YouTube in Germany, thanks to GEMA, the music collection society in Germany.

Since I know a little bit about the ongoing fight between GEMA and YouTube in Germany, I asked Nina if it was okay to do a post, discussing some of the details. We’ve written about GEMA a few times before, and last year, I went to Berlin and interviewed YouTube’s Patrick Walker on stage at PopKomm/All2gethernow, specifically discussing YouTube’s ongoing fight with GEMA. The details are a little different than what Nina suggests in the video, though she’s absolutely correct that this is very much GEMA’s fault. Even though Nina has a paid-in-full license with the various music companies that say displaying/performing her movie for free in Germany is entirely legal, GEMA has taken a ridiculous hardline stance with regards to YouTube. It believes that YouTube needs to pay it ridiculous sums of money for every video on the site that includes any GEMA-licensed music.

Other collection societies around the world have made agreements with YouTube, and worked out reasonable royalty rates for performances. Except GEMA. If I remember correctly, GEMA may be the only major remaining collection society which has not worked out a royalty rate with YouTube, and instead has been fighting a battle in German courts against YouTube. Because of that, and because of some clearly ridiculous court rulings, which suggest that YouTube (rather than its users) are liable for any infringement on the site, YouTube is blocking all videos that it comes across that include GEMA music.

Thus, I believe that the reason Sita Sings the Blues has been taken down is not, as Nina suggests, because of a direct takedown notice by GEMA (though, that’s possible), but more likely because of YouTube needing to avoid liability from crazy German court rulings and GEMA’s overinflated belief in what a “reasonable” royalty rate would be. Now, notice the key part here: the artist in this case wants the video to be online. Nina is pissed off that it’s offline. She’s paid quite a bit of money to the various music publishing entities to have the rights to show the movie worldwide, and the one blocking that is GEMA.

This is not an uncommon occurrence in Germany, unfortunately. Because of the way the laws work in Germany, those who have deals with GEMA effectively give up all of their own rights on such things. When I was in Germany, I spoke with multiple artists who were freaking out because they couldn’t give away their own music, because GEMA didn’t allow it. Aritst would show me their official webpage, without free music, and then their “secret, unofficial” web page with the music they wanted people to download. GEMA, which seems to be run by people entirely out of touch with how music works today, simply insists that no one can give away music for free… because then GEMA doesn’t get to collect money. Furthermore, for those who try to get around GEMA and used alternative licenses, GEMA has been known to ignore such licenses, and insist that people still need to abide by GEMA’s rules.

This is not a healthy situation. You basically have an out of touch bureaucracy that thinks it gets to set all the rules, even if they don’t match the reality in the marketplace. Because of that, artists are suffering. And the fact that YouTube is blocking Sita…, despite it being fully licensed and perfectly legal in Germany, should really wake some people up to the fact that GEMA is not helping artists at all. It’s stifling them massively.

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Companies: gema, google, youtube

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Comments on “Why Sita Sings The Blues Is Perfectly Legal In Germany, But You Still Can't Watch It On YouTube”

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76 Comments
btr1701 (profile) says:

Unbelievable...

…that it’s virtually impossible for an artist to control their own work because these copyright whores think they have some kind of natural right to profit off all music in existence.

And they have the stones to claim they’re doing it all to protect the artist’, all the while ignoring the artists’ wishes and screwing them out of payment (if not stealing it outright).

(Interesting that the typical shills around here have been conspicuously silent on that point, isn’t it?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Best part...

Is this article about it: http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/publishing/gema-under-fire-for-royalties-dispute-with-1005250002.story

The following quote is priceless:

“I suspect that some members of GEMA’s supervisory board have not yet arrived in the digital era,” said Edgar Berger, CEO of Sony Music Entertainment GSA

When you have Sony pointing out how much you misunderstand the internet, you *know* something is wrong.

It’s like being called a luddite by the Amish.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re:

Lemme get it straight, they IGNORE other licensing systems? So basically if it’s a German artists GEMA believes ii OWNS the artist.

Wow. I’m speechless. And to answer DannyB, must be because they are NAZI? Offense intended.

Yet another (out of several) example why copyright needs deep reform everywhere to actually protect the artists and allow non-commercial sharing.

Alien Bard says:

Re:

The usual method of fixing a bureaucratic problem is 1) to inform as many people as possible in the hopes of educating the policy makers sufficiently for them to understand the problem, and 2) to inform as many people as possible so the policy makers will be encouraged to take the matter seriously and begin repairing it. The above post is an excellent example of ‘fixing’ it.

The only other way to fix a broken government is to replace it. Are you encouraging her to incite a revolution? That’s a serious crime in most nations, though not unexpected logic coming from a troll.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re:

“So why is GEMA behaving differently than other German collection societies?”

My understanding is that German society, or a part of it, is currently downtrodden in the arts department. They’re having trouble understanding why. They used to have a glorious creative industry, but they believe the creative industry around the world is being unfairly controlled by justice evading white-people. These J.E.W.s, so the theory goes, have controlled the marketplace in creative works such that the German people specifically are being prejudized against.

Now, GEMA is working to reconstruct German creative industry through a stepped process, called the Reconstructing Enduring and Interesting Creativity in the Hinterland. Through this REICH, GEMA will first directly control all inbound culture that in anyway might utilize German culture for the enrichment of outside J.E.W.s. Once this has been controlled, any invading J.E.W.s found within Germany will be expelled. Those refusing to leave will be rounded up, placed onto trains, and shipped off to Artistic Reeducation Camps. It has yet been unclear what exactly they will be doing in that camp.

Italian collection societies are reportedly interested in this program. French musicians surrendered prematurely six months ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Informing all of the people outside of Germany will do nothing. It’s a fail. Getting a bunch of people on a blog (targetting the US, as Mike Masnick has recently said) upset about something happening in Germany sure isn’t going to do much.

Getting on with German authorities, German newspapers, German press, things like that might have a hope. Otherwise, the yelling about it (or making a video about it) is sort of meaningless.

As for inciting a revolution, all I can say is she isn’t inciting much of anything except perhaps a few snickers at this point. It seems the motto is “ready, fire, aim”.

out_of_the_blue says:

"Fix what, exactly?"

“Fix what, exactly?”

The problem that you just outlined. Didn’t you explain it fully and accurately? Or is this your usual aggressive challenge to dodge answering reasonable suggestions?

“Is Nina supposed to go convince GEMA to stop being stupid?”

No, figure out how to get around it. One of the recurrent themes here is the notion that when blocked by bureaucracy or pesky laws, the valiant hackers of “teh internets” will find a way to dodge, only better. Seems to me that your sharp retort only points up how difficult problems are in practice.

Of course, what you need is a “free” distribution system. I’ve no suggestions on that, but will point out that somehow the marginal cost to distribute this movie isn’t zero unless someone other than Nina Paley pays for bandwidth.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

"Fix what, exactly?"

“No, figure out how to get around it. One of the recurrent themes here is the notion that when blocked by bureaucracy or pesky laws, the valiant hackers of “teh internets” will find a way to dodge, only better.”

Did you watch Nina’s video? She’s already solved that part, offering Sita up on various bittorrent sites for the world to download. None of that makes the stupidity of removing it from YouTube for those that wish to enjoy it that way….

“Seems to me that your sharp retort only points up how difficult problems are in practice.”

Seems to me you don’t know what you’re talking about, which will go on the list of The Least Shocking Things Of 2011. Germans can get it via bittorrent. The issue is that they shouldn’t HAVE to go that route, because this GEMA shit is stupid, since Nina already licensed the music for the movie.

“Of course, what you need is a “free” distribution system.”

Yes, if only we had such a mechanism….

“I’ve no suggestions on that”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH!

“but will point out that somehow the marginal cost to distribute this movie isn’t zero unless someone other than Nina Paley pays for bandwidth.”

And that’s why this YouTube crap is stupid, because the cost to Nina to distribute via YouTube WOULD be zero as a marginal cost, but GEMA, supposedly an organization designed to protect artists, is mucking up the works.

On a side note, Blue, have you used massive amounts of cocaine in the past? Your paranoid wramblings and quixotic quests of anger remind me of a strung out Charlie Sheen….

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re:

Informing all of the people outside of Germany will do nothing.

Exactly. Because by putting a video online no one in Germany will ever see it. And no one outside of Germany might be able to do something in Germany to help the situation.

It’s a fail. Getting a bunch of people on a blog (targetting the US, as Mike Masnick has recently said) upset about something happening in Germany sure isn’t going to do much.

Yeah, because the video can and does only appear on this blog.

Getting on with German authorities, German newspapers, German press, things like that might have a hope. Otherwise, the yelling about it (or making a video about it) is sort of meaningless.

And how do you think those German folks find out about it? How about a video that’s getting lots of attention?

Nah, impossible.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

"Fix what, exactly?"

“So you’re saying it’s already been gotten around. Just as I thought. So there IS no problem. That’s my point. Thanks for confirming that this is just filler.”

Now, there is a problem. German people should not be forced to go to legal route B just because legal route A is being blocked unfairly. Think of it this way: You want ice cream. There’s a corner store down the block, but every time you try to enter that store I punch you in the face. You complain, but someone else tells you it’s okay because there’s a grocery store with the same ice cream 3 miles away.

Would you not have a problem w/that?

You’re my boy, Blue….

Mr. Oizo says:

Re:

”Exactly. Because by putting a video online no one in Germany will ever see it. And no one outside of Germany might be able to do something in Germany to help the situation.”

Now that you mentioned that, I suddenly realized that it doesn’t matter. 90% of the germs do not understand english anyway. So, assuming that Nina’s stuff is in English, she won’t have an audience at all, even if it were accesible on youtube in Germany.

Mr. Oizo says:

Re: Re:

Yes, I went to that site and it starts with ‘It may contain original research or unverifiable claims. Tagged since May 2011.’. Which apparently is true: in the ‘Germany’ row, one sees that both native and non-native speakers are included in these statistics. I was talking about Germans, not immigrants. For the ‘native’ speaking group, the article claims it comes from the ‘Statistisches Bundesamt’, and then they refer to a site, titled ‘http://www.howtogermany.com/pages/advertising.html’, which has _no info whatsoever_ on the statistics and is merely advertisment for a book. So, I went to the ‘Statistisches Bundesamt’ (http://www.destatis.de/), but couldn’t find anything on these so called statistics. MAybe you can find them ? But in any case, you shouldn’t blindly trust wikipedia.

As to my claim: I stand behind it, allthough there is a difference between young and old people. Young people know that they should learn English and want to, but have little access to it. Elderly look at english as something they might consider, but still believe there is nothing wrong with a german-only education. In general they are so bad at it that one can truly say that they don’t speak English.

Just for illustration: even Stargate and Startrek (which is likely the market where most English is understood), is dubbed in German. Actually, television/radio is german only, everything is dubbed.

What does tell you that about the market ?

PS: I live in Germany.

illuminaut says:

Re: Re: Re:

Just for illustration: even Stargate and Startrek (which is likely the market where most English is understood), is dubbed in German. Actually, television/radio is german only, everything is dubbed.

What does tell you that about the market ?

It tells me that they dub really well. All this says about the market is that Germans prefer communicating and consuming information in their native language, not that they don’t understand anything else.

P.S.: I am German.
P.P.S.: I’m almost offended.

mematematica (profile) says:

GEMA on Twitter

Just to add to the conversation, here I post the exchange I had via public twitter with GEMA yesterday, soon after hearing the “Sita sings the blues” status from Nina.

Disclaimer: I’m Mexican, I live in Germany, I suffer GEMA on a daily basis.

From @Mematematica
Hey @GEMAdialog can you pls clarify this? ich verstehe nicht MT @ninapaley #GEMA censored my movie in Germany! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpTPTQ3e0Jg&feature=share

From @GEMAdialog
@Mematematica @ninapaley GEMA did not “censor” nor initiate a blocking of your video. Please contact @Youtube about this.

From @Mematematica
@GEMAdialog @ninapaley @Youtube Vielen Dank f?r Ihre Antwort. May I inquire also about the blocked @playing4change video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55s3T7VRQSc

From @GEMAdialog
@Mematematica Only twelve musical works are affected, so it is more than likely that this video was not blocked by GEMA as well.

From @GEMAdialog
“Sita sings the Blues”: Sperrung nicht von #GEMA veranlasst http://netzpolitik.org/2011/gema-zensiert-meinen-film-in-deutschland/#comment-429754 #Youtube

Now, I have not located any GEMA statements about this “twelve musical works” (Other than that twitt) in english (my german sucks). So I’m at a loss here about GEMA stand (We all know Youtube’s one). I will ask again tomorrow, see if I get an answer.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re:

when i traveled to germany back in ’07(beautiful place btw) I met a total of 1 person who didn’t speak english

I had a similar experience (though my experience was mainly in the Frankfurt/Mainz area.) Even those that didn’t speak English knew enough English to point me to someone who did speak fluent English. I don’t think Mr. Oizo has ever been to Germany or Europe for that matter…my general observation in Europe is that most people I met there knew at least two languages, and many of them knew enough to be conversational with me, even if it was very basic. Germany isn’t that far away from England.

Josh says:

Sounds a bit like APRA

Sounds like they work much the same way as APRA in Australia. Artists recording repertoire works in Australia that are licensed by APRA, and that is practically everything, can not give the recordings away online without paying hefty fees per download.
I don’t think they are quite as bad as GEMA sound though. APRA must have worked something out with youtube… either that or they have not found youtube yet!

kamereon (profile) says:

Mike has got it right here: GEMA is usually not involved in blocking specific videos. Youtube will automagically block all videos that might get them in trouble with GEMA.

Nina should just follow Patrick McKay’s “Fair Use School”-Video to oppose to youtube’s blocking ‘Sita’.
Just stating that she’s the rights holder of both audio and video should be enough to get the video back online.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re:

“90% of the germs do not understand english anyway.”

Would it kill you to get to know countries before you criticise them? I’ve met Germans with a higher standard of English than some Americans I’ve spoken to, I believe that it’s mandatory at many school and according to Wikipedia 56% of the population speak English ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_English-speaking_population )

“she won’t have an audience at all”

I’ll assume this is as accurate as your other assertions, and congratulate Nina on her new audience.

kamereon (profile) says:

rights & licenses

OK. But usually this is just between you an youtube. You don’t even have to prove that you hold the necessary righs and licenses. Youtube Germany will take your word for it, if you fill out the online-form. (after all, they built their business on people uploading videos, and they hate GEMA just like everybody else in Germany :-))

Only if you piss GEMA off and their lawyers contact youtube on your behalf things will probably start to get complicated. Never heard that this has happened to an artist, though.

alex (profile) says:

not the first case i've heard of this

I live in Berlin so see blocked videos all the time when I click YouTube links.

I also have a friend who has all of the music videos released on his label blocked by YouTube/GEMA even though he doesn’t even use them as a collecting agency! He’s written to YouTube several times about it but they haven’t lifted the blocks.

Anu says:

RE: GEMA

If GEMA is failing to pay artists what is rightfully theirs to begin with – is it not possible for them to jump ship and boycott the organisation? This will allow them to give their music away for free, no? Or are they legally bound to continue their membership with the organisation? Or am I missing something?

and secondly when you say that “GEMA… insists that no one can give away music for free… ” – what do you mean by “no one” – I presume you are referring to GEMA-reigstered artists here, right?

I am also looking for a list of GEMA’s top five percent of members that are being paid the majority of loyalties it collects – can anyone suggest a good way to access this information?

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