Making a stand for authors’ rights

Authors’ societies will go to great lengths to protect and enforce the right of their members to fair payment.

Even a court of law.

We’ve written in detail about some of the great partnerships author societies have formed with industry players in their territories to ensure fair payment for their members. Teaming up with online services like YouTube or really is the best-case scenario for everyone involved – music-lovers gain access to a wealth of music, creators are fairly remunerated – and industry can make some profit too.

Sadly, sometimes a share of the profit isn’t enough and industry is tempted to put their own gains ahead of the people they owe their business to – composers and text authors.

When that happens we’re not afraid to step in and take action, backing our members every step of the way.

Last week’s ruling by the Regional Court of Hamburg in favour of GEMA – the German author society representing 64 000 composers, text authors and music publishers – is a fine example of this.

GEMA went to court on behalf of its members whose copyright-protected works had been made available on YouTube without their consent. What this meant in practice was that users could enjoy these music clips free of charge, YouTube was making money…and musicians were missing out.

Not only was this unfair – it was illegal.

And the Court agreed. YouTube is now obliged take concrete action, like installing digital tracking footprints, to make sure that copyright-protected works do not appear on their service, upholding the rights of GEMA’s members.

To echo Harald Heker, chairman of GEMA’s Executive Board, this particular case against YouTube was ‘an important victory’. You see, we’re not killjoys, and we don’t oppose profit on principle either. But preserving the livelihoods of our members – the musicians at the centre of this case – is always our number one priority.

This case is by no means the first time that legal action has been taken to oblige industry to assume moral and legal responsibility. In March, RapidShare – one of the largest file-hosting services in the world – was ordered by the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg to up its efforts to prevent and take down copyright-protected work from its platform.

The action RapidShare had taken until then – relying on copyright holders themselves to police the service and inform them if their works were displayed – was judged insufficient by the Court. For us, expecting individuals to undertake such a monolithic task is not acceptable!

We’re delighted to report these landmark rulings that send a clear signal to similar industry players tempted to go down the same route: when called on, authors’ societies can and do take action to enforce authors’ rights – and we’re a force to be reckoned with!