A few days ago, the German collecting society GEMA was criticized by CEOs of leading music labels such as Universal or Sony Music for not being able to negotiate an agreement with Google, the owner of YouTube, that would allow their music videos to be featured on the site (see “Cracks in the Content Coalition: Corporations vs. Copyright Collectives“).  Today the German branch of the hacktivism group Anonymous weighed in and launched a campaign against GEMA (see the video message below).

At the time I am was writing this post, the GEMA homepage is was down, most likely because of a distributed denial-of-service attack – the standard form of online protest organized by Anonymous. The rationale for the attack given in the video explicitly refers to the recent criticism by major label representatives and reads as follows (my translation):

The symbolism of the "suit without a head" represents leaderless organization and anonymity

“Dear Society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights [GEMA, L.D.], we are Anonymous. We obvserve with apprehension your excessive demands with regard to copyrighted materials on YouTube and similar platforms. The result is certainly known to many YouTube users in this country. One clicks on a music video but only receives the message that regrettably this video is not available in Germany since the GEMA has not granted the right of publication. […]
Anonymous finds this to be a restriction of the free flow of information. […]
Google will not be able to meet your excessive demands since it cannot generate the necessary ad revenues. We don’t have a problem with the fact that you want to provide earnings for music labels and artists – in doing so you however stand in your own way and, therefore, also the artists. Musicians need YouTube videos. In the meantime, this has even been recognized by the music labels since these constitute promotion free of charge, which no musician wants to waive voluntarily.
If this behavior does not change, we feel impelled to induce further measures. By now we will already distribute certain tools with which we will enable users to watch also blocked videos. The link to such tools is provided in the description of this video. With this we want to achieve a faster agreement with Google.”

The remainder of the video features the standard description of groups considering themselves to be part of the anonymous network:

Flyer for the "Operation Payback"

We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Expect us!

According to the Wikipedia-list of activities Anonymous groups claim responsibility for, this is not the first attack predominantly motivated by copyright issues. Also the so-called “Operation Payback” had targeted major pro-copyright and anti-piracy organizations, law firms, and individuals (see also the operation payback flyer “You Call It Piracy. We Call It Freedom.”).

Also remarkable is the clear positioning in support of a corporate actor such as Google, while previously corporations such as Sony (see “Operation Sony“) or credit card companies have been attacked.

Finally, from an organization theory perspective, the mobilizing and organizing processes under the label of “Anonymous” seem particularly interesting – but these deserve their own post.