Business News Digital Labels & Publishers

Koda hits out at YouTube over content blocking ultimatum

By | Published on Monday 3 August 2020


A bust-up has occurred in Denmark between the country’s song right collecting society Koda and good old YouTube, with the former saying that the latter has announced it will remove all Koda members’ music from its platform because of a disagreement over a temporary music licence.

Koda’s most recent deal with YouTube officially ran out in April. Since the last time that deal was negotiated, Koda’s alliance with the Finnish and Norwegian societies – aka Polaris – has formalised, and it is now negotiating a new deal that will cover all three societies’ repertories.

With the current Koda deal technically expired, the society proposed rolling that deal on until licensing talks with Polaris were completed. Given how long it can take for new music licensing deals to be agreed, it’s quite common for previous licences to expire while talks are ongoing. Rolling that expired deal on while the new talks go through the motions is pretty standard practice.

But, Koda says, this time YouTube has demanded that – while the old agreement remains in force – it must accept a cut in royalty rates. And, according to Koda, not a nominal cut either, but something nearing 70%.

In a statement last week, the society said: “Google have issued a new demand: if the agreement is to be temporarily extended, Koda must agree to reduce the payment provided to composers and songwriters for YouTube’s use of music by almost 70% – despite the fact that YouTube’s use of music has increased significantly since Koda entered into its last agreement with Google”.

Noting that songwriters and music publishers have never been particularly impressed with the royalty rates paid by YouTube to date – blaming the pesky copyright safe harbour for weakening the music industry’s negotiating hand – Koda says that it could never accept the proposed 70% cut, even on a temporary basis.

Having told Google that, it added, the web giant has “now unilaterally decided that Koda’s members cannot have their content shown on YouTube and that their fans and users on YouTube will be unable to listen to Koda members’ music until a new agreement is in place”.

Removing Koda members’ works from YouTube – even just in Denmark – will not only affect the society and its members. Artists and labels who have recorded songs written by Koda writers would also be impacted, as would anyone who has co-written with a Koda member. Which means YouTube’s strategy may be to get all those artists, labels and non-Koda allied songwriters to put pressure on the Danish society to play ball.

For its part, YouTube told Danish broadcaster DR that Koda demands “significantly more” in terms of royalties than its licensing partners elsewhere in the world. And, if the society wasn’t willing to budge on rates, the only option was to remove videos containing its members works.

However, the society’s Media Director Kaare Struve said: “Google have always taken an ‘our way or the highway’ approach, but even for Google, this is a low point. Of course, Google know that they can create enormous frustration among our members by denying them access to YouTube – and among the many Danes who use YouTube every day. We can only suppose that by doing so, YouTube hope to be able to push through an agreement, one where they alone dictate all terms”.

It’s not the first time YouTube has had spats with song right collecting societies. There was a short-term falling out with PRS in the early days of the video site, while German society GEMA refused to do a deal with the Google company for years.

During that period, German artists and labels got used to posting their videos to sites which, ironically, had no licensing deals with the music industry, in particular Vimeo. Though these days many YouTubers whose content is blocked on the Google site for copyright reasons just post it up on Dailymotion, the video-sharing site that generally takes a much slacker approach to rights management. You know, despite being owned by Universal Music parent company Vivendi.

It remains to be seen whether a deal can be done between Koda and YouTube in the short term, to save Danish artists and music fans having to navigate all that nonsense.