Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

YouTube’s Seven-Year Music Battle Ends in Germany

  • Video service to pay licensing fees for clips shown in Germany
  • Deal covers about 70,000 artists, thousands of music videos

Google’s YouTube struck a deal with German royalty-collection group Gema to pay licensing fees and unblock thousands of music videos in Europe’s biggest economy after seven years of legal battles.

The agreement signed Tuesday means that about 70,000 musicians and songwriters represented by Gema will get paid if their content is watched on YouTube, Gema said in a statement. The deal may enable YouTube to introduce its Red music and video subscription service in Germany, which the agreement also covers, Gema said.

The deal means YouTube will unblock thousands of clips in Germany for the first time in seven years. When German music fans in the past tried to watch videos of their favorite songs -- for example Katy Perry’s "Roar" or Psy’s viral hit "Gangnam Style" -- they only got an error message showing a red YouTube sad face with a line saying the content was banned from the portal for copyright reasons.

“Today is a big day for music in Germany,” YouTube said on its official blog. “This is a win for music artists around the world, enabling them to reach new and existing fans in Germany, while also earning money from the advertising on their videos.”

License talks between Google and Gema faltered after an earlier agreement between the two expired in March 2009. The new pact covers usage of its members’ content since April 2009, Gema said. Both parties agreed to drop their lawsuits in Germany.

The groups didn’t disclose financial details of the agreement. YouTube has in the past struck similar deals with dozens of groups around the world, including one in 2009 with the U.K.’s PRS for Music.

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