We love the GEMA (German collecting society), but this love has not been returned…
OK, I admit, that we love the GEMA is a bit exaggerated, but at least until recently we did not have any feeling towards them. Due to our last conversations with this institution this feeling slowly but steadily changes - towards the negative. Seems like GEMA wants to use its power as a monopoly to keep innovative, forward thinking and good-hearted start-ups out of what they probably consider as their market.
Here is the case:
GEMA, just like most other European collecting societies, works with exclusive contracts. That means, (German) artists that want to have their copyrights exploited by GEMA – and there is no other institution doing this in Germany – need so sign a deal with GEMA transferring all their rights exclusively to them. This includes ALL current and future works of that artist as long as this contract is standing – usually 6 years (which extends automatically for another 6 years if not cancelled on time, of course)! No single work can be excluded. It’s all or nothing – artists give up control and GEMA takes over. The consequence is that artists do not have the right to decide anymore how their copyright should be exploited and how not.
So, GEMA-members do not have the right to publish any of their work under Creative Commons License without the collecting society’s consent (this actually accounts for members of most European collecting societies, too). That is crazy, but sounds nonetheless manageable as we thought. So we tried to talk to GEMA to make a deal.
It seemed like a clear cut case: Artists can make money with us by exploiting their copyright efficiently and directly through Creative Commons Licenses. The GEMA’s job is to make money by exploiting its members’ copyrights and returning that money to them. So why don’t just GEMA and SellYourRights make a deal that enables GEMA-members to sell their stuff under CC-License and to make money from that. If GEMA insists, some part of that money could be redirected to GEMA (what actually does not seem to make much sense, as GEMA would need to return that money to its respective member anyway; but well not everything makes sense in this world).
This would be a clear win-win-win situation: Artists could set their music free under CC-License and make money from that. GEMA would have made their members happy and secured another revenue-stream for them. And we could have opened our service to all GEMA-members.
But we did not count with a monopolist’s ignorance (or execution of market power). Their simple response was: “No we don’t want that – period.” This response has a nasty aftertaste. An aftertaste that was underlined by the first sentence of GEMA’s response to our further enquiry: “…I understand that you do not want to give up your business-model, but…”
This is one of the finest examples of anti-competitive practices I know!
We will certainly take action against that, but this will take time. Lots of time… Until then we can only advice all GEMA-members that are interested in working with Creative Commons Licenses to have a very close look at the income-statements GEMA provides for you. Do the maths and take your freedom to leave this organization. It may pay off for you…