IMPALA Fires Back At YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki Over Copyright Directive Claims

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As a war of words heats up between music trade bodies and the tech community over the European Union's copyright directive, indie label trade group IMPALA has responded to recent claims by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki that the reforms threaten the livelihoods of thousands of artists, creators and songwriters.

"[The] creator economy is under threat from a section of the EU's efforts to revise its copyright directive, known as article 13, which holds internet companies directly responsible for any copyright infringement in the content shared on their platform," wrote Wojcicki in an op-ed published in the Financial Times on Nov. 12 and posted on YouTube's own Creator Blog.

"The [European] parliament's approach is unrealistic in many cases because copyright owners often disagree over who owns what rights. If the owners cannot agree, it is impossible to expect the open platforms that host this content to make the correct rights decisions," argued Wojcicki, claiming that global hits such as Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" would have to be blocked under the terms of the copyright directive as some of the rights holders remain unknown.

"Multiply that risk with the scale of YouTube, where more than 400 hours of video are uploaded every minute, and the potential liabilities could be so large that no company could take on such a financial risk," warned the CEO in what is her second blog post on the copyright directive. Her first, published Oct. 22, said that Article 13 "threatens to shut down the ability of millions of people ... to upload content to platforms like YouTube." 

YouTube's global head of music, Lyor Cohen, has also spoken out against the reforms, which were passed by European Parliament in September and are currently being finalized by European law makers.

Responding to YouTube's claims, IMPALA's executive chair Helen Smith has penned an op-ed, published in today's Financial Times, in favour of the copyright directive.

"Far from threatening our ecosystem, however, the directive will make things clearer, fairer and sustainable for all," writes Smith, arguing that Article 13 will help tackle the value gap between the huge revenues generated by music on platforms like YouTube with the relatively small sums returned to rights holders.

According to YouTube, the Google-owned company paid content owners across the EU €800 million ($ million ) in the last year and paid the global music industry more than €1.5bn from advert-generated revenue over the same period.

In her op-ed, Smith dismisses those figures as "designed to dazzle" and points to IMPALA's own members' revenues to show that for every €1 YouTube pays out, Spotify pays €10.

"The directive levels the playing field in a way that means we can all negotiate in a normal licensing environment. That's how you make the ecosystem sustainable for all. This is about the artists you haven't heard of yet," she writes, refuting claims that any reforms to copyright law will take away jobs.

"We now need to let decision makers agree on the final recipe to achieve balance. This should not be about protecting one platform's business model," states Smith, calling for decision makers to move fast and not get distracted. "Let's make the online world clearer, fairer and sustainable for all," she says.