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YouTube’s Lyor Cohen Says Article 13 Rules Would Crush Creativity, Lead to Blocked Videos and Less Income

YouTube's head of music, Lyor Cohen, continues to sound the alarm about what could happen to creative industries if the European Parliament's current version of Article 13 of its copyright directive…

YouTube’s head of music, Lyor Cohen, continues to sound the alarm about what could happen to creative industries if the European Parliament’s current version of Article 13 of its copyright directive becomes law. “The music industry will make less money from YouTube, not more,” he insists in a just-published blog post, adding that the changes will make it harder for unknown artists to be discovered in the first place.

As it currently stands, the EU-approved copyright directive will require platforms like YouTube to negotiate licenses with rights holders, effectively ending safe harbor provisions across Europe. Under 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 music-centric memes, remixes and other user-generated content on YouTube and other video streaming platforms, such DailyMotion. As Cohen notes, “well over 50 percent” of music includes some portion of unclaimed or unknown ownership. Under safe harbor, YouTube can pay those unidentified portions to a song’s known rights holders, and if a publisher still doesn’t want unlicensed content on the site, its can use Content ID to have it removed.

“When you combine YouTube’s scale — 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute — with the fact that 50 percent of songs have unknown ownership you create an impossible framework for YouTube to enforce rights ownership correctly 100 percent of the time,” Cohen writes. “Yet, the Parliament’s version of Article 13 would remove current protections and hold YouTube and other platforms directly liable for any copyright infringement, opening us up to unmitigated liability and such a large financial risk that we would be forced to block huge amounts of video.”

If Article 13 becomes law in Europe, YouTube would be forced to block videos at scale to avoid copyright liability — effectively curtailing the discovery of artists. “Rather than drive more value to artists, major labels and small, independent artists would get less money and less promotion from open platforms like YouTube,” Cohen says.

Wrapping up his blog post, Cohen implores the creative community to educate themselves about the possible impact of Article 13, as it is currently written. YouTube supports a “well-balanced Article 13,” but this doesn’t cut it, Cohen insists.

“Let’s ensure we build a better way forward in collaboration with the creative community that doesn’t clamp down on the new growth our industry is experiencing,” he says. “Let’s do the responsible thing and ensure that artists and songwriters can continue to find new audiences, connect with their fans, and earn a living making music.”

Read Cohen’s full post here.