A lot of countries get criticized for censoring the web, such as countries in Asia and the Middle East. And rightly so — censorship is not the answer for offensive or disliked content, education is. (I’m not even going to comment on using censors for political purposes.) However, not very much attention is given to what I like to call censor by copyright that takes place in many “modern”, “developed” nations. Like Germany.
Here in the United States we have the idea of fair use: the ability to use copyrighted content without compensating the owner to a limited extent. Germany has no such law. And because Germany has no such law, Google is forced to block YouTube videos because they “may” infringe on the rights of GEMA (Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte, or Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights).
According to data compiled by OpenDataCity, 53.1% of the top 1000 videos on YouTube are blocked in Germany because they “might” infringe on intellectual property owned by GEMA and 8.4% are blocked because they do infringe on the rights of GEMA for a whopping 61.5%. In other words, 615 of the top 1000 YouTube videos are blocked in Germany. Insane.
It isn’t entirely clear if this same block percentage holds true for all of YouTube or just the top content but this issue came to light again last week when videos of meteorite hitting Russia were blocked in Germany, because in the videos songs played in the background on the radio.
For its part, GEMA says it is willing to license content for use on YouTube. However, it wants to be paid a royalty of €0.00375 ($0.005) per video. Google obviously isn’t willing to pay, hence excessive blockage of videos on YouTube.