The social video sharing service YouTube has legal problems, again. Even after the Google/YouTube merger the online video hosting giant has continuing trouble with copyright and licensing issues.
This time it's the German GEMA, the performance rights collective for the German market which rightly claims that all videos on YouTube which have commercial background music are liable for royalties and thus have to be removed or paid for.
This new twist in the field isn't exactly new: as outlined in the past posting YouTube and Google Video collide with RIAA the massive and illegal upload of music videos to YouTube's servers has already questioned the business model of the sharing platform. Then, the issue was that an on-demand usage of music video content requires the exhibiting unit to pay licensing fees and royalties for each playout. The management announced deals with major music labels. After the merger Google promised to solve the issue. - no progress so far.
Now, as we already know the music video issues, the GEMA hints at another aspect. Let's imagine a user who uploads a homevideo - no problem so far. All rights lie on the side of the uploader/producer. But if this user decides to put music on the piece, the user needs approval of the performing artist or the representing music label. And in addition to that the exhibiting unit (in this case YouTube) has to pay royalties for each performance of the video.
So far the issue has not been resolved although Google insists on developing a solution. But at the end of the day the music video or background-music content on YouTube is a popular one, so just deleting it isn't an option.
A possible solution would be real-time filtering of uploaded data, for example with a system like Gracenote's musicID. Here at Clipland we have a similar solution in development for video content. Another option is to manually delete illegal files and block certain users - but who can really manage all uploads on a multi-million-user scale and an anonymous registration mechanism. Anyway, we'll see how this recent battle will end.