If you have read my last few posts about the problems of blogging in Germany, then you will probably not be surprised to learn that making a video or an audio podcast to put online is not easy.
Let’s start with the easy part: filming something and then publishing the film, is basically no different to the situation with a photo.
But with audio, things get even more complicated. As you might imagine, you cannot just record something and then use it. If I record an interview for a podcast then I either get written permission to use the recording, or – if the interview is conducted by telephone – ask the interviewee to confirm their agreement once the “record” button has been pressed.
Actually, that’s not the problem. The main problem is how to deal things such as background music.
Most music in Germany is protected by an organisation called GEMA. Similar to the PRS in the UK, they represent the rights of composers and collect royalties for the use of their music. If you want to play music in public, you will normally have to register your event with them and pay a fee.
Similarly if you want to play music on your website, this you will need to pay them as well.
But what happens if you are recording a podcast in the town centre, and a busker starts singing a song in the distance? They according to GEMA you have to pay to use the recording as well, even though the music is not intentionally part of it. It happened to me once, and I ended up throwing away a lot of good material as a result.
I had been to the wine festival in Oberursel and was careful not to record when any of the bands were playing. But I didn’t count on someone playing a barrel organ in the distance.
During the editing phase I rang GEMA and asked their advice. They were prepared to let me use the recording for a fee of 60EUR. Not once, but for every year that the podcast stayed online. This was on condition that it was not used commercially, and I would have to let them have access to my accounts each year to make sure that I had not made more than a certain amount using the site.
Whilst I could have quite happily discussed whether or not my blog is commercial, it seemed very excessive to let them have access to my entire accounts just for the sake of one recording.
So I let it go and re-worked the podcast. Now I avoid anything where music is being played, or if I want to make a short film of a festival then I replace the music with my own track which is definitely not liable for GEMA fees.