Bullied, Ripped Off And Threatened

Hamburg composer Frank Peterson has followed the footsteps of royalty collection agency GEMA by suing Google for streaming Sarah Brightman tracks on its YouTube site.

“I feel extremely bullied, ripped off and threatened by Google YouTube,” he explained.

His case hinges on three songs from an album Brightman released in 2008. Peterson says legitimate sales of the album were eroded by the free music videos on YouTube. He hasn’t so far said what sort of numbers are involved.

He did say he had to hire a full-time employee at his Hamburg studio just to operate the Google software that lets copyright holders purge YouTube of illegal downloads.

Germany is rapidly becoming a problematic market for Google, which has already reached royalty agreements with major collecting agencies in the UK, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Ireland, Italy and Czech Republic.

The seven countries represent more than half of the European online music market, which makes it even more frustrating for Google execs trying to cut a deal with GEMA.

The two sides would appear to be poles apart. GEMA may be encouraged that a Munich court recently recommended that services like YouTube pay rights holders 6 euro cents per live stream, but the reality is that eventually the rate will likely be agreed to at less than 1 euro cent.

Mike Shaw, a media analyst at Internet marketing research firm ComScore, estimates that Google is paying the collection societies a fraction of 1 euro cent per download stream.

In August, the research firm said YouTube streamed 213 million music videos in the five largest European countries — Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain — which is the equivalent of 2.6 billion streams a year.

Barring out-of-court settlements, the matter is unlikely to be resolved in the courts before the end of next year. In the meantime Google will continue blocking copyrighted music videos on YouTube in Germany.