Feb 4, 2016

Collective Rights Organisation Fails to Collect in Dispute with YouTube

The Higher Regional Court in Munich has issued a decision in a dispute between YouTube and collective rights organisation GEMA. The Court held that YouTube is not accountable for copyright infringements on its site as the judges held that sole responsibility lies with individual uploader(s).


GEMA is a collective rights management organisation based in Germany and acting on behalf of authors of musical works. In English the organisation's title is Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights. GEMA represents 70,000 members in Germany and has more than 2 million members worldwide.

Licencing fees are paid to GEMA for the public performance of protected musical works belonging to GEMA's inventory, these fees are then paid to its members according to a distribution scheme.

Dispute ‚Äď GEMA v YouTube

The dispute between GEMA and YouTube started several years ago when GEMA increased its subscription fees. YouTube now blocks many videos that contain music in Germany. To date YouTube has not paid GEMA any licence fee even though it generates advertising revenues from the music videos.

GEMA filed a number of lawsuits in Germany against YouTube arguing that YouTube is responsible for what YouTube users upload. GEMA is claiming damages of 1.6 million Euros which has been calculated by royalties for 1000 music videos at 0.355 Euros per view.

The Higher Regional Court in Munich held that YouTube is a neutral platform which is not liable for a user's uploads therefore responsibility for copyright infringement rests with the individual uploaders.

A GEMA spokesperson has allegedly said that this decision will allow YouTube to continue to generate substantial advertising profits. This is because YouTube could sell advertising around the unlicensed content which would remain in view until the rights holder became aware of the video by which time YouTube would have generated and may keep the advertising income.

The Court's decision is not yet final as GEMA has the right to appeal. A spokesperson for GEMA said, "We shall study the reasons for the decision and then probably launch an appeal". We will keep you posted.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in the article or have an IP related issue the team at McDaniel & Co. are able to help. Call on 0191 2814000 or email legal@mcdanielslaw.com

in: Case Law, Copyright, Digital/Tech, News

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