Several times I mentioned GEMA (Germany’s collection society) and hassles artists as well as event managers and other people are having in dealing with them. Yet, all2gethernow’s panel on collection societies made me feel some relief in looking forward.

I think it’s worthwhile mentioning again that there are at least two significant differences between GEMA and US collection societies:

  • GEMA is the only collection society in Germany. Its factual monopoly is acknowledged.
  • Members of GEMA strictly are not allowed to license some works with GEMA while others are licensed under Creative Commons for instance. Members might exclude certain rights like all performance rights from being handled by GEMA. But within the chosen type of rights, all works you are creating during your membership solely are managed by GEMA.

At all2gethernow [link broken, 2016-03-10], the future of collecting royalties and the evolution of collection societies has been discussed. There obviously is a consensus that change is about to happen – in particular regarding the role of GEMA. Even GEMA’s director and legal counsellor Kilian Steiner admitted the need for change. Apparently, the guys at GEMA are checking for a way to improve the current situation. Now this has been claimed before – yet this time, there is a new scent to it. Taking into account pressure from various sources, it’s becoming rather urgent:

Members’ issues

  • Only about 5% of its members have a vote in participating.
  • The distribution of royalties is based on a rather questionable statistical formula.
  • No way to shape licenses like you can with CreativeCommons (commercial vs. non-commercial use).
  • No option for licensing under Creative Commons.

Customers’ issues

  • There’s a total non-transparency in rates.
  • Dependency from GEMA.

Public issues

  • Regulation of use of music within public environments (schools, parties etc.)

… and that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Anyway, talks and claims at all2gethernow are to be taken seriously.

Then, thanks to evergreen at a GEMA independent discussion forum on GEMA matters, I stumbled into an article that reports on a second meeting on collection societies [link broken, 2016-03-10] during all2gethernow.

The base line of this article – and it’s part of a serious music business magazine, keep that in mind – is truly bizarre. They report the session host (Dr. Martin Schaefer, lawyer) provokingly asking if dissolving GEMA and re-launching a “GEMA online” from scratch wouldn’t be best. According to the article, Alexander Wolf, lawyer in international rights at GEMA is said to “very clearly” have answered “[that] this supposedly is right the solution”. Moreover, Patrick Strauch, new member of GEMA’s advisory board “confirmed it’s in the works already.”

Meanwhile I talked to someone who has been there. I think the so called “small sensation” is not at all what it looks like. The article does not take into account the difference of GEMA on one side and “GEMA online” on the other. Therefore it’s not clear which “solution” both GEMA panelists refer to – is it dissolving today’s GEMA? Or is it launching a “GEMA online”?

Informations I received from the visitor of the panel are more like “situation is even getting worse”. This relates to scattering of licensing and licence metadata which generates enormous costs in retrieving licence owners and the process of licensing.

More on that hopefully soon. I’m still waiting for the video file of our panel at all2gethernow (the one with Laurent Kratz from Jamendo, Kilian Steiner from GEMA etc.).

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