A blog on why norms matter online

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Bieber in Berlin: Impressive app shows that two thirds of YouTube's most popular clips are blocked in Germany: a human rights issue?

Today, I embed a very impressive app by OpenDataCity that shows which of the 1000 most viewed YouTube clips can be seen in Germany. 

It is a very unimpressive 385. Of 1000.

61,5 % of the world's top 100 YouTube videos cannot be seen from a German IP address because of an unresolved conflict between Gema, the German agency responsible for managing intellectual property rights for artists. 

The reason for this very high number of blocked videos is that Gema asks for 0,00375 Euro per click (which is, by the way, much less than the 0,1 Euro that the Styrian butcher wanted for clicks on videos inspired by him.) YouTube (i.e. Google, Inc.) has refused to settle on this number and chooses not to offer the videos to visitors identifiably from Germany as part of a strategy of legal risk avoidance.

So it's not the German government blocking the videos, it is YouTube not offering them for fears of legal proceedings by Gema.

Other countries used as a comparison are South Sudan (15,3% of YouTube's 1000 most popular videos blocked), France (1,0 %), Switzerland (1,2 %), Vatikan (5,1 %), Spain (0,6 %), Austria (1,1%) and Afghanistan (4,4%). 

Have a look at the app. You can find my analysis below if you can resist the temptation to have a look at some of the 1000 videos ... .

Supported by MyVideo. Made by OpenDataCity. This App is under CC-BY 3.0.

Now, of course this does not mean that Germany should be added to the list of 

Freedom House's "Freedom on the Net 2012" survey confirmes that the bad score of Germany on what can be called 'YouTube 1000 most popular video index' must not be confounded with a restrictive approach to Internet freedom per se. 

Germany ranks 3rd of the countries surveyed in terms of Internet freedom with 15 of 100 points (0 being most free).

The influence of restrictive intellectual property rights regimes on Internet freedom is limited. The US (with 0,9% of the videos blocked) reaches only 12 of 100 points (with 0 being "most free") on the Freedom House scale, while the UK (with 0,8% videos blocked) an less impressive 25 of 100 points . 

Rather, it should provoke a debate on how to protect intellectual property rights and while ensuring the right to access to cultural heritage and and to all forms of articstic self-actualization worldwide thorugh the techonlogy of one's choosing. 

And it should make Gema and Google reconsider finding a sustainable solution.

The debate should, however, not confuse the important fight against Internet censorship. The argument that YouTube's choice not to provide videos because of intellectual property concerns is the same, on a human rights level, as the enforced blocking of videos by states, cannot hold water. 

Of course, German users circumvent the blockage by using VPNs, as this article for the German "Zeit" weekly illustrates. It was published, proably by coincidence, just yesterday.

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