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.