Summary:

Nina Paley is upset. Her movie Sita Sings The Blues is blocked for German users on YouTube, making it the latest casualty in an ongoing conflict between the video site and German music rights group Gema. Rights holders deny that they’re to blame for the incident.

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The animated movie Sita Sings The Blues is available for free, in full length on YouTube — except if you live in Germany, where the title is blocked due to an ongoing royalty dispute between a rights holders organization and the Google-owned video site (hat tip to Netzpolitik.org). Film maker and open culture activist Nina Paley found out about the issue during a trip to Germany, and she wasn’t pleased.

She recorded a YouTube video to highlight the issue, pointing out that she has signed contracts with music publishers that give her worldwide rights to the music used in the movie. Check out the entire video below:

Paley’s rant is just the latest instance of rights holders and music fans getting upset about the dispute between YouTube and Gema, which has been escalating ever since negotiations between the two parties broke down in early 2010. The main issue at hand is that Gema would like a per-play compensation for the use of its works, but YouTube instead wants to pay a percentage of ad revenue earned with the videos in question.

Further complicating the issue is that copyright isn’t the same worldwide. U.S. laws make complete buy-outs of rights possible, meaning that rights holders can opt out of pool licensing of public performances and mechanical reproductions for a lump sum of upfront money. European intellectual property rights generally don’t allow this kind of thing.

A Gema spokesperson blamed Google for the video not being available to German users when contacted by us via email. “Gema didn’t order the blocking or ‘censorship’ of this movie,” she wrote, adding that Google distorted the situation by suggesting that Gema didn’t offer the rights to display certain content. “YouTube simply hasn’t acquired these rights,” she wrote.

Regardless of who is at fault for this latest incident, it looks like Gema is increasingly losing the war of public perception. Question is, will that make it easier or harder to come to an agreement?

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