YouTube's Lyor Cohen Warns Article 13 Will Have 'Severe Unintended Consequences' For Music Biz

Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes Lions
Lyor Cohen speaks onstage during the Youtube session at the Cannes Lions Festival 2018 on June 19, 2018 in Cannes, France. 

As YouTube's global head of music, Lyor Cohen has a deeper interest than most in how controversial changes to copyright law will impact on user generated content (UGC) services.   

The Google-owned platform arguably stands to be hit hardest by the reforms, passed last month by the European Parliament and currently being finalized. As it currently stands, the Copyright Directive will require platforms like YouTube and Dailymotion to negotiate licenses with rights holders, effectively ending safe harbor provisions in Europe.

Under the terms of Article 13, the directive's most controversial element, they will also have to implement automatic content recognition systems blocking any copyright infringing works, as well as to set up "easy redress" systems for works mistakenly taken down.

Critics claim that Article 13 could put an end to memes, remixes and other user-generated content -- a view shared by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. Last week, she published a letter warning against the impact that Article 13 would have on its community, saying the legislation will kill the internet as we now know it for users, creators and artists alike.

Now Lyor Cohen has outlined his views on the issue in a Q&A article with Shots Studios' founder John Shahidi entitled "How to Build Fandoms on Open Platforms," published on the YouTube blog.

In the article, Cohen praises the Shots Studios team and artists like Anitta, Alesso, Rudy Mancuso and Lele Pons for creating "a media empire" for youth on YouTube.

"I was blown away by how close they are to their community -- how they encourage fans to participate and create covers, parodies, collaborations. This reminded me why it is so important that the industry understands Article 13," writes Cohen in his introduction.

"Because all of this great content, this unique way to build deep connections with fans, is at risk of being blocked and removed from open platforms (such as YouTube, Facebook, Reddit)," he goes on to say, before adding, "Let me be clear: we understand and support the intent of Article 13."

"We need effective ways for copyright holders to protect their content. But we believe that the current proposal will create severe unintended consequences for the whole industry," warns Cohen.  

"The music industry should really pay attention to these unintended consequences -- the system that  largely contributes to their success is at risk of major change in the European Union," he states.

Returning to the theme at the end of the article, Cohen surmises his discussion with Shahidi by stating that "the success of the music industry and the creative environment that has benefited so many artists are threatened by Article 13, as written."

He surmises by stating, "I encourage everyone making a living in this industry to learn more about it and join us to propose a better version together."