YouTube Is Leading a Campaign of 'Fact-Free Fear-Mongering' Against Europe's Copyright Directive, Say Rights Organizations

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The video platform has warned Article 13 would lead to lower music industry payouts and make it harder for unknown artists to get discovered.

Leading European music rights holder organizations are speaking out against YouTube and what they call the video platform’s “fact-free fear-mongering” against Article 13 of the Copyright Directive currently heading towards implementation by European Parliament. 

The European Composer and Songwriter Alliance, GESAC, ICMP, IFPI and IMPALA issued a joint-sector statement on Wednesday (Nov. 21) saying, “YouTube’s campaign against Article 13 of the Copyright Directive shows a lack of respect for the EU democratic process of law making.”

It continues, “The revisions to the Directive have been under discussion for over four years already and the three main institutions of the European Union have all given their position. The Commission, Council and Parliament have all reached the same conclusion, that there is a value gap, also referred to as a transfer of value, where user upload services are making vast sums of money on creators’ content uploaded by their users, but not paying the right holders who own that content fairly. The result is a serious distortion in the European digital market place which harms right holders, other digital services and citizens. To correct that situation, platforms like YouTube should have to take responsibility for the content they use and monetise, by fairly remunerating their creators and right holders.”

YouTube has heightened its campaign against Article 13, since European Parliament passed the Copyright Directive in September. CEO Susan Wojcicki and head of music Lyor Cohen have taken vocal roles in the fight, issuing warnings to creators the legislation will restrict their use and reduce income. On Tuesday, Cohen published a blog post stating the music industry will make less money from YouTube, if Article 13 passes, and these changes will make it harder for unknown artists to get discovered. Wojcicki, meanwhile, has encouraged YouTube creators to "take action immediately" and speak up against the legislation on their channels and using the hashtag #SaveYourInternet on social media.   

In its current version, the copyright directive would require user-generated content platforms like YouTube to negotiate licenses with rights holders, effectively ending safe-harbor provisions across Europe. The directive’s most controversial element, Article 13, requires these services implement automatic content-recognition systems to block any copyright-infringing works, as well as to set up "easy redress" systems for works mistakenly taken down. European Parliament is now in the process of negotiating with members states and the European Commission to finalize the directive -- a process that could be completed by the end of the year.

IFPI, IMPALA and the other rights holder organizations have been actively helping shape the Copyright Directive, while advocating in support of the legislation and speaking out against YouTube’s attempts to derail it. Their joint statement continues, “YouTube constantly refers menacingly to ‘unintended consequences’ if the Directive is adopted, and threatens to block content, instead of showing willingness to observe laws and fairly remunerate right holders. In fact, the Directive will bring fairness. Fairness for all platforms by creating a level playing field where everyone is playing by the same rules and fairness for right holders who will be properly rewarded for their creative content. It’s in our interests to boost online creativity, not restrict it.”

The organizations go on to argue that, despite YouTube’s claims to the contrary, Article 13 will benefit the digital creator community and establish sustainability by addressing the “value gap” that has left the music industry seeing disproportionately low payment from such services. 

“Even though the clarifications proposed by the EU institutions may not be to YouTube’s liking, they will contribute to sustainable and balanced growth of the European digital markets ultimately to the benefit of all stakeholders in the digital value chain including citizens,” the statement concludes. “Many thousands of international artists, authors, publishers, labels, managers, songwriters have urged the EU to find a solution to the value gap. YouTube’s eleventh-hour campaign of fact-free fear-mongering should be seen for what it is: an attempt to derail the EU democratic legislative process.”

YouTube responded to the joint statement, reinforcing its belief that Article 13 -- in its current version -- will have negative ramifications against its community.

"While we support copyright reform, we have an obligation to let our creators, artists and users know about the serious unintended consequences from the Parliament's version of Article 13," a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement. "To date, YouTube has paid the music industry over 5b EUROs from advertising revenue alone. We also pay the same rate as Spotify for our music subscription service. Under the Parliament's current version, labels, collecting societies along with large and small artists would get paid less from YouTube. We look forward to working with policymakers and the creative community to find a version of Article 13 that helps protect, not harm creativity online."

UPDATE: This article was updated at 7:15 p.m. EST Nov. 21 to include a statement from YouTube.


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