I attended an art performance today in Berlin. GEMA is a German Collective Management Society (CMS). In their Declaration Form for Original Works they ask to give the length of individual samples on extra sheets. The German artist Johannes Kreidler registered – as a live performance event – a short musical work that contains 70,200 quotations with GEMA using 70,200 forms.
Kreidler arranged his demonstration to protest against in his opinion absurd provisions that even the smallest quotes of other works must be declared to the societies. According to his statement this licensing model discourages the use of new technologies which enable creators to distribute and recycle cultural goods on a large scale.
It took about half an hour for Kreidler’s assistant to unload the 70,200 forms from the van and carry them to the building – Kreidler’s DoS attack managed to block the entrance of the building. However, GEMA appreciated the performance and invited us to the conference room on the top of their building. In the following discussions the GEMA spokespersons made very clear that as a collective management society they represent the commercial interests of their members and that their primary objective is to maximize the returns for a commercial exploitation of a work.
I asked if a GEMA member could license a work for non-commercial exploitation – e.g. by making it available on her private web site under a Creative Commons non-commercial license – in order to encourage the re-use of parts of her work. The GEMA representative answered along the lines that non-commercial usage is not in the interest of GEMA, but in principle it should be legal and possible for GEMA members to make available samples for free.
A lawyer needs to check this in the GEMA membership agreement, but if it’s true it looks like an interesting solution – as a consequence GEMA members could upload their sounds – not songs – to Freesound, a service that encourages the sharing of sound. This would resolve the problem of recycling cultural goods, because creators of musical works could decide to only register songs (“complete” works) with GEMA and at the same time register their sounds (“incomplete” works) with a Registration Agency for commons content (e.g. RegisteredCommons).