Peter Kafka

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Warner Music Group Disappearing From YouTube: Both Sides Take Credit

Warner Music Group’s videos are disappearing from YouTube. The move to take down the videos started early Saturday morning. It’s a result of a breakdown in negotiations between Google and the music label over a licensing deal, which was set to expire soon.

Who actually made the move to drop the label’s content from the world’s biggest video site is a matter of dispute, though. Both sides are taking credit for the decision.

Here’s Warner Music (WMG)’s statement:

We are working actively to find a resolution with YouTube that would enable the return of our artists’ content to the site. Until then, we simply cannot accept terms that fail to appropriately and fairly compensate recording artists, songwriters, labels and publishers for the value they provide.”

But a person familiar with the situation tells me that the two companies were close to an agreement until recently, when Warner changed its terms. In response, Google (GOOG) made the move to yank the label’s content.

Google’s blog post about the matter is more oblique. But note that it doesn’t say it is taking the music down at Warner’s request:

Sometimes, if we can’t reach acceptable business terms, we must part ways with successful partners. For example, you may notice videos that contain music owned by Warner Music Group being blocked from the site.”

As I explained yesterday, music videos are some of the most popular content on YouTube. But the videos are also money losers for the video site because it has to pay the labels each time someone views a clip, regardless of whether it’s generating any revenue. YouTube’s contracts with all of the the big labels–in addition to Warner, it has pacts with Sony (SNE), Universal Music Group and EMI–are set to expire in the near future, so there are multiple games of chicken to watch here.

Meanwhile, taking down an entire music company’s catalog can take quite a while, which means that if you head to YouTube right now, you can still find plenty of Warner stuff  there–like the Madonna channel, which has golden oldies like this one:


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