YouTube Finally Signs GEMA: Plus A Primer For PROs

Finally! After a 7 year stalemate, German music rights collection society GEMA and YouTube have reached a licensing agreement. Read on to find out what this might mean for you.



In order for YouTube to show music videos in a particular territory, they must first sign an agreement with the performance rights organizations in that territory. Performance rights organizations, commonly called PROs, are the companies that collect money from television channels, radio stations, live music venues, and brick and mortar retail locations whenever they play music. Most territories only have one PRO (PRS in the UK, SOCAN in Canada, etc) but it’s possible for a territory to have multiple PROs. If you’ve ever heard of ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, those are the performance rights organizations in the United States. When you go to your local bar or coffee shop and hear music, that shop has more than likely secured licenses with the PRO(s) in their territory. Every time music is played in a commercial establishment, the people who wrote that music need to get paid. That’s where the PROs step in.


 In addition to physical locations you may visit, PROs also collect money from digital transmissions such as Pandora streams, Spotify plays, and YouTube. In order to show viewers any video that contains music in it, they must have deals in place with the PROs of that territory to ensure the songwriters of that music will get paid. GEMA is the German PRO and they have never quite seen eye-to-eye with YouTube. The two companies have long disputed how much money should be paid for the use of music in YouTube videos, and their lack of ability to come to an agreement has meant that all YouTube videos with music are, in theory, restricted from views in Germany. For the most part, for the past 7 years if you lived in Germany you could not watch music-related videos.


 Apparently that’s now over, effective as of November 1, 2016. YouTube and GEMA have finally struck a deal. In addition to Germany, a lot of music-related video content has previously been restricted from viewers in Austria and Switzerland. Apparently now all of that content will be available for viewers in all 3 of those countries, which will provide a broader international audience for your videos as well as additional revenue opportunities for your channel. For those of you that have had European fans complain that they couldn’t watch your videos, those days should now be over.