GEMA issues fraudulent takedown of Sita Sings the Blues in Germany

Apparently it’s been blocked there for over a year, but without lawyers there’s not much I can do about it from the US….so I made this video. Please share, especially if you’re in Germany.

22 comments to GEMA issues fraudulent takedown of Sita Sings the Blues in Germany

  • Have you tried to talk with EFF regarding this?

    As I see this, the issue is possibly bigger than what you say on the video. Some people are claiming that GEMA’s contract with Sony (that precedes your contract with Sony) is in such a way that Sony sells exclusive broadcasting rights in Germany to GEMA. If that’s so, the fraud is actually in Sony’s contract with you, since they’re selling you something they don’t have the right to.

  • [...] Paley macht darauf aufmerksam, dass ihr Film Sita Sings the Blues auf Einspruch der GEMA von YouTube entfernt wurde. Sie [...]

  • today, I wish I were a lawyer, or knew one who would work pro-bono for a simple justice cause. Hoping someone sees the video and comes to your aid,

  • Tom

    I believe the problem is in the GEMA-policy. They expect rights owners to proof to GEMA that they have a license for broadcasting the content. Same if you install a stereo in a street bar. GEMA will ask you to pay for using “their” music unless YOU proof to them, that you do not play any music licensed with them. Same for radio, TV or even when you are a clown at a birthday party singing a children’s song. At least that is what I was told.

    This works okay for the physical world (more or less), but you get into trouble when you try to do the same on the Internet with millions of users and self-publishing creatives.

    So what happens is: every time you publish licensed music on the Internet, you have to proof to GEMA over and over again, that you have a license to do so. Because they suspect that you haven’t unless proven otherwise.

    To ease that pain, companies like GEMA have started selling global broadcasting-licenses to companies like Google/YouTube. In this case the platform like YouTube has it’s own broadcasting license for the music.

    Now the problem is, that GEMA didn’t sign the contract with YouTube because they want more money.

    As a result: if you as an artist uploading video to YouTube you not only have to have broadcast rights for the Internet in Germany. But you also need to proof GEMA that you have them and grant YouTube to broadcast the video, since YouTube does not have the required license for Germany by itself. I’m not sure if YouTube also requires to sub-license the work in that case, which may mean that your contract might even not be enough.

    I don’t know if Sony is legitimate or not to even sell licenses for Germany without GEMA. It depends on the deal Sony and GEMA have signed. But I doubt that a company like Sony would have signed a contract that would have disallowed them to do so.

    The long-term problem here – from my perspective – is the “guilty unless proven innocent”-approach. One might argue, that it should be the other way around and that it should be in the responsibility of GEMA to proof that you DON’T have a license before taking down a video instead of making YOU proof that you do. But of course GEMA argues that this does not work in practice because there are way too many videos to check them properly.

    I would consult your contract and if it allows you to broadcast the video via a third party, you may want to e-mail a copy to YouTube and have them confirm that you have rights to broadcast the video in Germany.

    Other than that: my advice for the future would be to use CC-licensed music only. I use it for all my YouTube-videos and never got into trouble. I also use 100% CC-licensed music in my non-commercial radio show.
    All is well.

  • Nina, we try to spread the word around here: http://blog.pbis.de/?p=1722
    Good luck!

  • [...] GEMA blockiert jetzt sogar schon CC-lizensiertes Material. Nina Paley ist das Opfer und wehrt sich zurecht und [...]

  • Btw, I am pretty sure that Liz told you about GEMA ;-)

  • Sponge Flop

    Sorry, but the one and only evil company that has fucked you is Sony. If an artist is registered at the GEMA (as all Sony artists probably are), the GEMA ist the ONLY institution who can grant you the rights to use their members’ songs in Germany (i.e. Youtube Germany).
    The purpose of the GEMA is that their members don’t have to hassle with hundreds of TV/radio stations, music bars, organizers of concerts and public parties where the music is played. They don’t need to make individual contracts with all of these groups, it’s all done by the GEMA and the Sony artists get their money from the GEMA.
    Sony on the other hand no longer has the right to issue individual licenses for public performance of their material in Germany (=Youtube Germany), as they dispatched this right exclusively to the GEMA.

    So… Blame Sony. They may either entitle the GEMA to manage all the licensing stuff in Germany, or they may do it all on their own and quit the GEMA. But they may NOT receive revenues from the GEMA AND sell the licenses on their own. It’s not the GEMA acting fraudulent here, it’s (once again) just the major greed called Sony Entertainment, trying to cash twice.

  • The story arrives at SpiegelOnline (subtitle “One World Minus Germany”): http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/0,1518,774616,00.html

  • Thanks for that link, Stefan!

  • Pinta

    Ms. Paley,

    I just saw your video concerning GEMA rights and I’m located in Germany.
    I honestly disagree with your point of view.
    GEMA represents the rights of connected artists and furthermore they are trying to compass financial issues for their artists. As you might know google wasn’t willing to pay GEMA or the artists a fair part of money from googles earnings with their songs on youtube, so GEMA decided to refuse googles offer.
    So in conclusion, the problem is your contact with sony or in another way: you have to blame google for being greedy, but not GEMA.
    They are just following german law, which is, fair enough, not facile, but for the goods of the artists.

  • Yes, those dead American artists who composed the songs in the 1920′s, really need GEMA to “protect” them. (Since English may not be your native language, the proceeding is sarcasm.)

    If you learn a little more about the history of the movie Sita Sings the Blues, you’ll see GEMA is not protecting anyone, especially not artists.

  • Sponge Flop

    @Pinta: No, GEMA are indeed the greedy bastards here, not Google. Google has paid GEMA fees before, but that contract had ended and GEMA said: “Wow, that was good. Let’s milk them.” AFAIR they raised the price dramatically and wanted Google to deliver them detailed statistics about which videos are played how often, I don’t remember the whole argument though…
    @nina: It’s the artists’ choice to become GEMA members or not. While the GEMA model might no longer be the most suitable in an internetted world, their terms and conditions are pretty clearly defined and the artists you are referring to obviously chose to sign their contract with the GEMA devil.

    To sum it up: The GEMA model was a good idea back in the good old days of national TV and radio. But like any local, country-specific licensing crap it just sucks for doing anything on the internet. Lesson learned is: Don’t use ANY content you didn’t create yourself on the internet, because it seems just impossible to get the required rights, as even the creators/publishers seem to have lost track on their contracts with the diverse local licensing agencies. Your “license page” for Sita gave me a short, but very bitter laugh… :-/

  • Pinta

    @ Nina

    All I’m saying is that you also have to blame google, who is the owner of youtube.
    I admit, that I don’t know the history of your movie, but I know the history of youtube and GEMA, maybe you check this too. Truth is, google is making money with youtube and GEMA is legally trying to get a part of that money, for the represented musicians.
    I’m sorry that you are a loss in this fight, at the moment, but your perception is to simple. At least there are two disputants, please keep that in mind


  • Lesson learned is: Don’t use ANY content you didn’t create yourself on the internet,

    A better lesson is ignore copyright law entirely, because no matter how hard you try to comply, you will lose. Censorship begins in your own mind. If you “learn” to censor yourself from all this, then you really lose. To win: love the art you love, and express what you want to express, no matter what the law and the censors say.

  • [...] heute aus dem Plattenkoffer von Martin Risel – und er berichtete über die öffentliche Beschwerde der US-amerikanischen Filemacherin Nina Paley bei der deutschen Verwertungsgesellschaft GEMA. Denn Paleys CC-lizenzierter Zeichentrickfilm [...]

  • @nina: It’s the artists’ choice to become GEMA members or not. While the GEMA model might no longer be the most suitable in an internetted world, their terms and conditions are pretty clearly defined and the artists you are referring to obviously chose to sign their contract with the GEMA devil.

    The artists Nina is referring to are Annette Hanshaw & company, who recorded the songs in question in the 1920s. It’s somewhat hard to believe your claim that these artists in 1920s USA `obviously chose to sign their contract with the GEMA devil’, given that GEMA wasn’t even founded in Germany until 1947….

    What’s the saying, `obvious troll is obvious’?

  • Martin

    “Yes, those dead American artists who composed the songs in the 1920′s, really need GEMA to “protect” them.”

    Nope. But the current rights owner Sony. In contrast to other countries where you remain the owner of your copyright until it expires and can only license it for different uses, you can effectively -sell- your copyright in the US. So if Mrs. Hanshaw (or whoever wrote her songs) decided to sell the rights at some point, they’re out of the game. In comes (current owner) Sony, who decide to have their rights handled by GEMA in Germany according to their “all or nothing” policy. Result: blocked video due to the ongoing argument between GEMA and Youtube. As you can see here http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/netzpolitik/0,1518,768816,00.html even the German branches of Sony Music and Universal are not too happy with the current situation.

  • [...] Paley macht darauf aufmerksam, dass ihr Film Sita Sings the Blues auf Einspruch der GEMA von YouTube entfernt wurde. Sie [...]

  • We all love you film “Sita sings the blues” and continue watching it -no matter what the GEMA does… http://tiny.cc/1vxpb thank you for this real treasure! Thank you so much – the film is awesome!

  • T_X

    Hm, I do understand that there is this rediculous law in the US since 1998, the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”, which retrospectively increased the copyright term for those songs in Sita Sings The Blues (and I’m still startled how this law could actually make it; whether the politicans in charge were too short sighted, whether these politicans were corrupt and the democratic system failed to counter that or whether I’m too stupid getting it).

    I also get that there is this so called “GEMA Vermutung” (GEMA assumption) baked into German law which might have made sense back then (but not anymore in a global society – for instance my personal experience with it is just rediculous, we gave the GEMA a call to ask whether we’d have to pay fees for playing CC licensed music from jamendo.com at our university at a non-commercial, purely educational, but public event and the answer was yes).

    What I do not get is why the Mickey Mouse Protection Act applies for Germany. As far as I know German law still has the 70 years after death time span. How can the GEMA under German jurisdication then claim or execrcise any rights for these songs at all?

    PS: To end this post with some more positive words: Nina, I really enjoyed watching Sita Sings the Blues a few years ago when I just started to learn about Creative Commons. And it was one of the very few, professional CC movies back then – but this 1.5h incident definitely sparked my imagination about the potential in Creative Commons works (which it still has not reached yet at all, it’s just the beginning) and therefore my dedication to CC.

    Also, Sita Sings The Blues was one of the first insights I ever got about Indian culture and Hinduism, it’s nearly no topic in the German society or in schools here at all – which seems a little weird due to being the second largest country. Which is a pitty or even danger as refraining from sharing culture only results in misunderstandings, conflicts and ultimately violence.

    Please do not ever let such copyright trolls get you down too much or for too long, you’re doing a very awesome and valuable job for humanity!

  • Hi Nina,
    yesterday your movie Sita sings the Blues was broadcasted on German channel 3sat. Great movie.
    The idea behind Gema is a good one because artists are protected and paid. Your case is much more difficult. I read the interview you did with Lloyd Kaufman and I understand, some copyrights of the artists performing in the original recordings are still not expired. However your movie is so fantastic I think the companies representing the material should be glad if the music is used in your movie and couldn´t that be used to advertise their recordings and even bring them more clients? Wouldn´t it be much better for ALL involved if they agree to let you use the music in your movie and they in return use your movie to promote their records. Sita sings the Blues is such an extraordinary movie, I cannot imagine that even at the big devilworshipping conglomerates they do not realize this,
    sincerely and best of luck with Sita
    Michael Huck

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