German DJs Protest GEMA’s Proposed Tax on Digital Music Collections

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(from Billboard.biz, April 9, 2013) Last week, in front of local offices of the German collection society GEMA, hundreds of German DJs acted against what they consider new and unfair DJ licensing fees. These offices are located in Dortmund and Munich. In Dortmund, the demonstration was spontaneous with about 100 DJs protesting; while in Munich there were about 500 DJs and members of the German Piracy Party, who work to oppose German copyright laws, demonstrated in front of the City Hall on the Munich Marien-Platz.

The protests are in reaction to a license fee that GEMA, a German collection society, announced on April 1 for DJs who play and store songs digitally. The license fee is .13 euros (0.17 cents) per title or €125 ($163) for collection of 1,000 tracks. An additional 500 tracks can be purchased for €50 ($65). The majority of DJs store around 15,000 music-files on their drives, which would require a typical DJ in Germany to pay GEMA about 1,500 Euros (around $2,000) per year.

A spokesperson for GEMA, Franco Walther explains that “DJs are obliged by law to register with GEMA and pay licenses for their copies. If they don’t do this they are liable for damages up to 100% of the actual fee.”

Michael Mayer, who is the co-owner of Kompakt, an electronic music label in Cologne, believes that the new fees for GEMA are outraged. None of the money generated by the DJs reach the musicians whose music is being played in the clubs. The new rates serve as the sole purpose of in income for the most successful GEMA authors’ pockets.

This is not the first confrontation between GEMA and Germany’s nightlife entertainment industry. The tension started last summer when GEMA proposed new fees on German discos, which then sparked protests, including clubs shutting down in early July.