GEMA Gets Bailed Out By Germany's Parliament; Allowed To Proceed With Venue-Killing Rate Hikes

from the your-shakedown-is-GO! dept

The threat posed to Germany's underground club scene by all-around IP thug GEMA is no longer just a threat. Back in July, GEMA decided to “streamline” its convoluted fee structure. Naturally, it decided to smooth things over in a upward motion, raising the fees charged to these clubs by up to 1,400%. This sparked protests against GEMA's tactics and a petition with 60,000 signatures was brought to the Deutsches Bundestag (Germany's parliament). Unfortunately, the Deutsches Bundestag punted, suggesting those unhappy with the new fee structure negotiate directly with GEMA. [However you spell “LOL” in German goes here.]

The petition itself deployed an interesting tactic, targeting the legality of the “GEMA presumption.”

The petition, which began circulating in August, specifically protested the so-called “GEMA presumption,” i.e. GEMA's method of deciding tariffs for clubs and festivals based on the assumption that they own rights to 100% of the music being played there. The reasoning behind this is that it would be too difficult to sort out which tracks were or weren't written by GEMA members. This method is part of what allows GEMA to decide their tariffs based purely on the amount of space in a venue and the duration of its events, without necessarily knowing what music was played.

Not much of a “method,” is it? It's exactly what the protestors call it: “presumption.” Rather than make any attempt to even make a ballpark guess at the percentage of music GEMA might actually be able to collect on, GEMA has bullied its way to a supremely privileged position that allows it to claim tariffs on 100% of any music played in nearly any venue. The duration of the events works against the underground clubs as well, as their extended hours drastically increase the fees GEMA collects.

The audacity of this claim (and the unwillingness to do any legwork) is astounding. Whatever hold GEMA has over the government, and by extension, Germany's music consumption, far surpasses the power of other PROs, labels and IP groups around the world.

Resident Advisor points out that this isn't the first time GEMA's “presumption” has been challenged.

The GEMA presumption has been contested before. One study by Berlin's Club Commission sampled everything that was played at Berlin clubs like Watergate and Weekend over one weekend, and found that as many as 35% of the records played were unknown to GEMA…

While GEMA could still claim that its artists provide a larger share of the records played in these clubs, it's still a long walk from 65% to 100%, that latter percentage being what determines the fees assessed. Unfortunately, the Bundestag sided with GEMA in this earlier action, stating that any alternative would be “too cumbersome” for the PRO to utilize for its collection efforts.

This second concession to GEMA by the Bundestag effectively allows GEMA to set rates with impunity and frees it from having to determine actual music usage. In addition to granting GEMA even more power, it likely dooms several iconic Berlin clubs to extinction, thanks to rate increases that reflect only GEMA's self-serving “streamlining” rather than the actual music played or the clubs' actual income.

Organizations like GEMA are supposedly “protecting artists” by imposing these fees. There's some “protection” going on here, but it's got nothing to do with art.

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Comments on “GEMA Gets Bailed Out By Germany's Parliament; Allowed To Proceed With Venue-Killing Rate Hikes”

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61 Comments
The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Protecting artists

No, the correct term is “stealing” from independent artists. This isn’t a tax, it’s literally taking the money from artists who choose not to use GEMA.

GEMA are, under the terms of the law, defrauding artists. Why these criminals are allwoed to get away with it is…well, frankly, fucking shameful.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Protecting artists

Technically, they’re stealing from the artists who do choose to use GEMA, too.

The reason why it’s so difficult for GEMA to figure out which of the songs are by registered artists is because GEMA doesn’t listen to the music. When it comes time for GEMA to actually pay the artists, they don’t know whose songs were actually played, or how much they were played. The money is divided up based on decisions made between the ~3500 GEMA members at their annual meeting. In other words, they make up the numbers — and a GEMA artist could easily not be paid for the performances of their songs, just as other GEMA artists could be paid for songs that weren’t actually performed.

What’s really shameful about GEMA is that they have the full force of the law behind their collections process, but no accountability or oversight in their disbursement process.

That One Guy (profile) says:

So ‘Because it would be hard‘ is now an acceptable excuse in german politics… wow, apparently you really get a good deal when buying politicians in germany.

For those in germany, I really hope there is something they can do when it becomes this obvious that their politicians have been bought out and have gone from ‘public servants’, to ‘private employees’.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Godwin’s Law states that given enough time in any online conversation, someone sooner or later will always make a comparison to Hitler and/or Nazis.

The Law makes no claims about such comparisons invalidating anything, especially when discussing the actual historical actions of a certain German government body that existed then as it does now.

The Real Michael says:

Disgusting

By allowing one group to impose a universal rate on all music performance, the German Parliament is in effect putting a lock on artistic expression, all for the sake of GEMA, the German mafia-arm of the labels. The right to perform music should never become a government-enforced privilege granted exclusively to those who’d pay their extortion fee.

This has nothing to do with “protecting the artists” and everything to do with one greed-motivated group holding all music performance hostage. In summary, this is war on expression.

Planespotter (profile) says:

Over at one of the RA pages someone called KiwiGirl makes the mistake that a hike in revenue to GEMA = More money going to the artists!

“High tariffs for the clubs is obviously no fun, but if it results in more money going to the right place (i.e. musicians as well as club owners & promoters) then surely this is a good thing?”

http://www.residentadvisor.net/forum-read.aspx?id=212095&page=1#p22

Naive fool!

PaulT (profile) says:

“Unfortunately, the Bundestag sided with GEMA in this earlier action, stating that any alternative would be “too cumbersome” for the PRO to utilize for its collection efforts.”

In other words, “doing this the right way is too difficult for the incumbent corporations, let’s pass on the costs and risk to everybody else while they cash in”. Par for the course…

out_of_the_blue says:

Yeah, after all, someone else's music is only 90% of the draw...

This is again, as with “file hosts”, a case where the profiteers don’t produce what they sell. The music is a major draw so they should pay for it — and out the wazoo is fine with me.

Because it’s not important to have a “club scene”; it’s an actual drain on society to have large numbers of idiots drinking, dancing, and drugging.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Yeah, after all, someone else's music is only 90% of the draw...

Because it’s not important to have a “club scene”;…

You realize that if you were in Germany with your buddies listening to Big Band 45’s while player checkers at the Senior Center, GEMA would want to collect from the Senior Center also. It’s not just about that “young whippersnapper” music you know.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Yeah, after all, someone else's music is only 90% of the draw...

Because it’s not important to have a “club scene”; it’s an actual drain on society to have large numbers of idiots drinking, dancing, and drugging.

That’s right! Recreational activities are a waste of time and resources. If you are doing anything more than working, sleeping, eating, and producing new future workers (the minimal possible amount of those last three, please), you are a drain on society.

Anonymous Coward says:

as this is as close to ‘legal racketeering’, why dont the clubs go to court? if they do it ‘en bloc’ and lose, close down for a few months so the impact is felt by the government (no taxes) as well. the public outcry alone should make them re-think, surely? however, i must say this is in line with the other countries that seem to have this opinion that there is nothing more important than the entertainment industries and the subsidiaries. it’s a shame that every other industry, including banking and the internet, doesn’t stoop for a while to show the importance that they should be given instead of an industry that does little apart from extort money from people. what are these politicians thinking about, for Christ’s sake?? no wonder Germany wants to increase the member payments to the EU over the next 5 years. they can get it from GEMA

Digger says:

Pushback - hard

Switch to 100% non GEMA artists, boycott all GEMA artists in Germany – then tell GEMA and your lawmaking body to go fuck themselves.
Better yet, form the Anti-GEMA (AGEMA) group, sign all of the other artists, and charge GEMA 10 times as much for anything they get paid for with the AGEMA presumption. Hey, what’s fair is fair.

Kam says:

Re: Pushback - hard

The problem is: GEMA can just assume that every artist is a GEMA member. If you play music from non-GEMA members and don’t want to pay for it, you have to prove to GEMA that this particular artist isn’t a member. And GEMA can decide whether this proof is good enough or not. Guess how easy they make it for you to prove it?

And playing some freely licensed music from the web? You would have to contact the writers, composers, singers, etc. for and each and every song and ask them for their names and addresses as well as written statements that they are not GEMA members. Which would require a lot of time and effort and would probably often be futile in the end.

There were some efforts to create a rival royalty collection agency with better rules. But such agencies are (for some idiotic reason) overseen by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office and those guys don’t see any reason why anyone would need another agency besides GEMA. Surely the fine people at GEMA are more than capable of collecting all the money… So all efforts were shot down.

Violated (profile) says:

hoffnungslos

GEMA is doing a shit job of serving both the musicians and the public market.

One of many examples is YouTube who have successfully negotiated music deals with most countries around the World but Germany is blocked to them simply because GEMA is overpriced beyond reason and refuses to budge.

Sure enough everyone is mad at GEMA from the record labels who would actually like some income, through the hundreds of sites that can’t work with GEMA, down to the users always seeing “this music/video is not available in your country”

Now GEMA have gone the final step of annoying clubs as well when since many services now refuse to deal with GEMA they are losing money and so need to boost their core club income to compensate.

Here we now are with the German Government failing to rein in this monster, or ideally to force consumer regulation on them, now allowing GEMA to destroy most of the music market in Germany.

I am sure most people would like to see GEMA die and for a new fair service to replace them. The problem there is even if a second collection agency was started and everyone stuck to non-GEMA music then you can bet your last Euro that GEMA would still demand their fee and would have some very fascist law to back them up.

So music life in Germany is as sad as you can get with GEMA failing to do their most basic job of licencing music at fair rates.

PaulT (profile) says:

Yeah, after all, someone else's music is only 90% of the draw...

“The music is a major draw so they should pay for it — and out the wazoo is fine with me.”

So, you’re OK with 35% of the money going to people whose music wasn’t even played? With no income possible for those whose music was used? Of course you are, you corporate whore, you…

“Because it’s not important to have a “club scene””

Yes, because everybody knows *that’s* never translated into people buying records, live bands getting exposure through remixes, festival attendance, merchandising and all sorts of other boons for the labels and artists, right? No, in your world everything is separate and unrelated, hence your inability to grasp the most basic logical points.

“it’s an actual drain on society to have large numbers of idiots drinking, dancing, and drugging.”

Yet, I guarantee most people would prefer a million more of those people to the company of pathetic trolls, who literally have a negative contribution to make.

Get back under your bridge, adults are talking and reality needs to be addressed, whether you like it or not.

Michael (profile) says:

Yeah, after all, someone else's music is only 90% of the draw...

“a case where the profiteers don’t produce what they sell.”

We finally agree! I knew it would happen! You have seen the light!

GEMA produces nothing and is profiting off of both the artists that make music, and the club owners that actually market their places and create an experience that people want.

Oh, sorry, you meant the clubs. Sorry, you are still clueless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah, after all, someone else's music is only 90% of the draw...

“Because it’s not important to have a “club scene”; it’s an actual drain on society to have large numbers of idiots drinking, dancing, and drugging.”

Agreed they should all be sitting around in their underwear screaming at the kids to get off their lawn just like you and bob, productive. Being crazy and so fare out of touch takes time and energy. Where will the madmen of tomorrow be if they spend their youth enjoying themselves? How will they turn into bitter stupid assholes?

Androgynous Cowherd says:

Go all CC-PD.

A club should switch to nothing but CC-licensed and PD music, advertising this fact heavily, and keep a video record of every night. When GEMA comes around to collect, tell them to take a hike. When their lawyers call, tell them to take a hike. And when GEMA files a copyright infringement lawsuit, produce the videos as clear documentation that disproves any possibility of infringement, and demand attorney’s fees awarded for filing a suit GEMA should have known was unsupportable, then countersue for barratry or whatever. That oughta learn them.

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