Criticising the critics 4: please may I quote your review?

Criticising the critics 4: please may I quote your review?


norman lebrecht

January 25, 2012

It has been standard practice in the entertainment industries for as long as we’ve been around that a good review is raw promotion. It gets posted far and wide and serves to attract paying customers and further engagements.

So imagine the consternation of German singer Peter Schöne when two fine and appreciative reviews that he posted on his site landed him with lawyer letters from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Sueddeutsche, demanding that he cease and desist from using their copyright material and that he cough up a four-figure fine for improper use.

I hope Peter’s lawyers will tell them where to shove it, but I wonder who tipped off the newspaper lawyers in the first place.

It’s not the sort of thing they would have noticed spontaneously. Might it have been one or both of the critics who felt their high integrity was being compromised by Peter’s promotional usage?

Read on here in Moritz Eggert’s German blog for the full story.


  • “but I wonder who tipped off the newspaper lawyers in the first place”

    That’s also my question… I didn’t know that I have enemies around there 🙂

  • In one of the comments added to Moritz’s blog, Henry Brinker reports that the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has demanded that the Frankfurt Opera pay 7500 Euros for its recent quotes from the paper. They are also demanding a set sum per year (not given in the comment) for future use of quotes.

    This could turn into a nice business where journalists only give good reviews so that their papers can cash in on the quotations. I hope Herr Schöne comes out of this OK. Their demanding 1400 Euros from him, and the immediate removal of the quotes from the web. Money like that can be painful for classical singers to come by.

  • As a corollary to this, I haven’t kept an exact count, but I would say that more far more than half of the videos with music on YouTube I try to access are blocked here in Germany by GEMA (the German music royalties collection agency.) In the States these videos are not blocked, and I doubt they are in most countries.

    I love Pandora Radio, but it is also blocked in Europe, so I have to use an identity cloaker for my connection. I can sometimes use the identity cloaker to circumvent the blocks on YouTube. (It connects me to an unblocked server in the States and then bounces the signal to me in Germany.) I understand the need for royalties, but organizations like GEMA and the RIAA seem out of touch with the modern world. The mentality of “Ordnung muss sein” gone awry.

  • Alexander Strauch says:

    A brief comment to “GEMA” and youtube: yes it is nerving by clicking around on youtube to find this un-kindly smiley explaining the GEMA would block this piece of music. If you read it word by word you see it means it “could be blocked in reason of a possible copyright infringement”. As a composer my profi-society “Deutscher Komponistenverband” me that in the end the GEMA blocked only eight songs!! So you see the longer arms of youtube. Fast unifications with music royalties collection agencies in GB, etc. But do not forget: the GEMA is a author-dominated agency meanwhile the most other agencies in this metier are publishing-house-dominated, so influenced by companies which have a quarter-of-a-year-based interest to find a quick way of solution. So the most attacks in Germany against the behaviour of the GEMA comes from the phono-industry except the protests of the normal users which see only the fast click but not the real-existing authors concerned in this case more direct hided behind the videofile than the authors of the publishing-house-dominated agencies, themselves in this role also more users than independent authors. The GEMA is slow, yes. But this has his reasons in the way of function: the man with the most songs has there not automatically the highest income. The royalties are social divided between all members similar to the German public old-age pension assurances. The highest earners are integrated in a system of social balances. And so now wonder if the GEMA acts like a dinosauriee. But I think to prefer this social way than all to bring under the quick-clicking in the web.

    • Hello Alexandar. Yes, I too like the basic concept GEMA uses to distribute funds. For those who might not know, they place composers in two groups based around the German concepts of ernste Musik (art music) and Unterhaltungsmusik (popular music.) Composers of so-called ernste Musik receive much higher royalties per minute than composers of popular music. It is difficult to track performances, so the dividends for ernste Musik are sometimes distributed rather subjectively. This often leads to justifiable complaints about cronyism, but overall it is a good system.

      GEMA is much stricter in copyright enforcement than most royalties agencies. In order to maintain their concepts of copyright, they not only block the music of their members on YouTube, but a wide range of music from other countries as well, including a large amount of American popular music. YouTube makes it very clear that GEMA is blocking content, and I think this serves an important purpose, because it pressures GEMA to modernize its ideas and its methods of collection.

      Very often, GEMA seems to be stuck with 19th century concepts of what a composer is. The world has changed, but GEMA hasn’t. The “quick-clicking” of the web is a reality that is not going to go away — even in merry old Bavaria. GEMA would do much better to find a way to let people listen and unobtrusively collect fees to support their members. When GEMA behaves so unimaginatively and stops people from listening, as it so often does, everyone loses. They also damage their reputation.

  • AF says:

    I’ve very interested to see how this works out. Some of my colleagues are taking reviews down from their websites.

    I simply don’t know if the English ‘fair use’ coverage for quotes stands in Germany. Perhaps someone with better langauge skills than mine can interpret this:

    § 51 Zitate

    Zulässig ist die Vervielfältigung, Verbreitung und öffentliche Wiedergabe eines veröffentlichten Werkes zum Zweck des Zitats, sofern die Nutzung in ihrem Umfang durch den besonderen Zweck gerechtfertigt ist. Zulässig ist dies insbesondere, wenn
    einzelne Werke nach der Veröffentlichung in ein selbständiges wissenschaftliches Werk zur Erläuterung des Inhalts aufgenommen werden,
    Stellen eines Werkes nach der Veröffentlichung in einem selbständigen Sprachwerk angeführt werden,
    einzelne Stellen eines erschienenen Werkes der Musik in einem selbständigen Werk der Musik angeführt werden.

    I also did find this about EU copyright law:

    Articel 5, 3(d):

    quotations for purposes such as criticism or review, provided that they relate to a work or other subject-matter which has already been lawfully made available to the public, that, unless this turns out to be impossible, the source, including the author’s name, is indicated, and that their use is in accordance with fair practice, and to the extent required by the specific purpose;

    Is there a difference, I wonder, in posting a quote as a blog entry and posting it on a static promotional website?