98% of YouTube Music Videos Are Completely Authorized. Now What?

youtubesorry

Don’t want your music videos on YouTube? Then take them down.

This morning, Warner Music Group officially licensed their content to Vevo, the YouTube-embedded music video service (we first reported on the deal here).  The move comes amidst growing plans to diversify Vevo beyond YouTube, which currently accounts for nearly every music video viewed on this planet.  It’s an ambitious plan by Vevo stakeholders Sony Music and Universal Music Group, and it’s being fueled by growing animosity towards YouTube’s refusal to pay more for music videos.

But new data not only shows that YouTube isn’t breaking the law, they aren’t even abusing existing copyright law.  A recent report from music industry research group Midia revealed that just 2% of YouTube’s music video content is unauthorized.  These are illegal UGC uploads of concerts, lyrics videos, the actual videos, or other material that rights owners didn’t green light beforehand.  The rest, about 98%, are not only completely authorized, about 75% of them are high-quality and supplied by the labels themselves through Vevo, according to the same dataset.

So, if just 2% of music videos are unauthorized and can be taken down using DMCA procedures, what’s the problem here?  The Recording Industry Association of America, an organization that represents the three major labels, has been leading the charge against widespread DMCA abuse by video giant.  “YouTube takes advantage of the dysfunctional DMCA to do less about piracy than it could and pay unfairly low royalty rates,” RIAA chief executive Cary Sherman declared.  “It doesn’t have to be like this.”

But is that even true?  Adding to the confusing is Content ID, a system created by YouTube to allow content owners to automatically flag their content if it appears on YouTube without permission.  Once identified, the owner has the option to remove that content, monetize it, or even strip the audio out of it (for example, if paired with a group of people singing karaoke).  YouTube says that system, part of a self-contained copyright ecosystem, makes the DMCA irrelevant in most situations.  In other words, if you don’t want your video on YouTube, then you should just remove it.

So, why aren’t labels and artists simply removing their videos?  The only problem is that most artists don’t want to do that, especially those that are trying to build their careers.  Justin Bieber is the most famous YouTube success story, but thousands of others are using this platform in various ways to grow their audiences and stay connected with fans.  They’re getting paid crap, but they obviously value the audience and platform that YouTube provides.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t be constantly uploading new videos, or, for that matter, creating videos specifically for the platform.

It’s a simple economic calculation: YouTube offers more value than just a fractional penny rate, and artists and labels are making a calculation that it’s worth it.  Otherwise, they would leave.

Given all of this, I can’t figure out if Cary Sherman, who gets paid millions every year according to filed documents, seems to be missing the basics of how YouTube operates.  Either that, or the RIAA is trying to orchestrate a ridiculous PR campaign (go figure).  But maybe there’s something here: the simple threat of UGC uploads from tens of millions of users.  After all, if the labels decided to move all of their content off of YouTube tomorrow, then maybe that vacuum would be filled with a torrent of crappy, user-uploaded videos.  That’s the chaos from which this video platform was born, and it once characterized music videos on the platform.

Actually, Vevo is dangling the threat of moving its videos… to Facebook.  That would hurt, given that Vevo supplies such a massive amount of well-shot, high-end music videos to YouTube, and Facebook is now a very serious video competitor.  But it’s really unclear what would happen after that nuclear option.  After all, wouldn’t users just start uploading music videos themselves, and start monetizing them before they get ripped down?  Just like the old days?

But Facebook isn’t organized in the same way; it’s impossible to just look up a video and press play.  Not everyone is on Facebook anymore; you can’t just share a link and pop it open.   Then there’s the real Facebook Achilles’ Heel: most people watch Facebook videos in silence.  So there’s that.

Perhaps this debate is really simple: the industry and its artists want more money from YouTube, and YouTube is refusing to pay it.  Part of the issue is that all of this is ad-monetized, and there aren’t enough ads running with enough money being generated.  Layer in ad blockers and a struggling subscription service, and you can see why YouTube doesn’t want to pay more.

But is YouTube doing anything illegal?  Actually, not really.  They just pay like crap while serving the biggest music audience online (and maybe the world).  And so far, it doesn’t seem like the music industry has a solution to that problem.  Or a way to make YouTube pay them more.

 

 

 

28 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “if just 2% of music videos are unauthorized and can be taken down using DMCA procedures, what’s the problem here?”

    It’s down to 2% because artists are forced to spend time and money on detecting illegally uploaded UGC and sending DMCA takedowns.

    That’s necessary because Content ID isn’t available, unless you’ve got a huge catalog (and no, you can not use Audiam/Tunecore/CD Baby for that).

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    “Content ID, a system created by YouTube to allow content owners to automatically flag their content if it appears on YouTube without permission. Once identified, the owner has the option to remove that content, monetize it, or even strip the audio out of it (for example, if paired with a group of people singing karaoke).”

    Paul, why do keep repeating this nonsense?

    Content ID is not available unless you have a huge catalog!

    Don’t believe me?

    Shoot 10 cat videos on your phone tonight, upload them to YouTube, sign up for Content ID and let us know how that works out for you.

    Reply
    • Me

      I don’t think you know how content ID works. What does this have to do with cat videos?

      Reply
  3. Versus

    ” In other words, if you don’t want your video on YouTube, then you should just remove it [via ContentID]”

    Isn’t this obviated by the fact that most of us are not eligible for ContentID?

    Reply
  4. Me

    Is the 98% referring to both publishing and sound recording, or just sound recording? I find it hard to believe that YouTube has deals in place with 98% of songwriters, especially considering that Google is very tough to get in touch with for indies.

    Reply
  5. Silver Nathan

    The midia research doesn’t say 98% of the music is fully authorized. Very confused. Do you mean as a percentage of total number of spins? That’s probably better but nowhere near 98%.

    Reply
  6. Felix

    Bit baffling to see this as it doesnt match my own experience. I know from looking up my own music on You Tube that the vast majority of the uploads are not authorised or monetized by the labels or me. Its mostly people uploading my music with a still shot. Are you just referring to moving images when you say ‘video’?

    Reply
  7. Eric

    Paul – Your 98% is way off. Even YouTube admits that a ton of their music is not authorized. Look at the ginormous number of takedowns. Can you back up how your 98% was calculated and by who? Maybe it was done by those same Berklee folks who were paid by Google to do a sham study on takedowns. I like Ms. Scheider’s new expose on Content ID. It seems to me that either she is wrong or you are wrong, and it seems like she has done her homework, from the trenches, and you have not. Do regular artists have access to content ID or not? She and your readers here say NO!! If you can’t disprove them, you should take this article of yours down. Here’s her recent piece on this.
    https://musictechpolicy.com/2016/05/15/guest-post-by-schneidermaria-open-letter-to-youtube-pushers-of-piracy/

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      Why would I take this article down? It’s creating exactly the type of discussion that is valuable to this industry. I’m personally learning a lot.

      I can’t upload the report, because Midia sells that for thousands of dollars. But, let me just point you to what Mark Mulligan, who heads Midia, told the Guardian. Here’s the information he supplied.

      “However, MIDiA’s research claims the impact of Safe Harbor is very small, with just 2% of music video views coming from unofficial user-generated uploads. Three-quarters of all music video views are official, the vast majority through Vevo, a joint venture between Google and the music industry.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jul/13/taylor-swift-youtube-music-royalties-battle

      There’s undoubtedly other sources here too. I can add those as well.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        “It’s creating exactly the type of discussion that is valuable to this industry”

        It’s easy to start a discussion: Just post something that you know is wrong.

        Like, Content ID works.

        Reply
        • Anonymous Too

          +1

          Or that contentID can be used by independent artists to block users from uploading their songs/videos.

          Uploading the report would be wrong. Interviewing Mark Mulligan could be very helpful.

          Anyone remember when YouTube Red required copyright holders to authorize monetization through Content ID in order to make their works available to paying subscribers? Could that be factoring in to how the term “authorized” is being defined within this report?

          Isn’t the inability for a service provider to know how many copyrighted works have been uploaded by its users the underlying premise of the DMCA?? This statistic appears to quantify the unknowable. That implies that no matter what the basis is… its either a guesstimate or complete bullshit. I respect much of Mark Mulligan’s past analysis, so i’m inclined to assume its an educated guess.

          Reply
      • DavidB

        From your story: “A recent report from music industry research group Midia revealed that just 2% of YouTube’s music video content is unauthorized.”

        But that isn’t what the report says, is it? It says 98% of music video *views* are of authorised content.

        I have no idea whether Midia’s report is correct in what it *does* say. It’s not impossible, as authorised videos by major stars like Rihanna or Taylor Swift rack up huge numbers of views. Rihanna’s most recent official video has nearly 400 million views, which would outweigh a huge number of illegal uploads with, say, 10,000 views each. But in any case I have no confidence in Midia research, and I don’t know why you have. Just because it gets quoted a lot on the internet doesn’t give it any credibility. Mark Mulligan’s comments to the Guardian don’t say what is the sample frame for the research, which doesn’t inspire confidence.

        Reply
        • Paul Resnikoff
          Paul Resnikoff

          Mulligan is a respected researcher in the music industry. I think the problem is that people aren’t agreeing with his findings, because it doesn’t fit the very strong rhetorical narrative against YouTube. Actually, I appreciate the ‘views’ clarification btw, though, what are we talking about here? Essentially, nearly all YouTube music video views being legit. I don’t think this is research that should just be brushed off.

          Reply
          • Troglite

            How about a direct quote from the publicly available abstract on Midia’s own web site:

            “Safe Harbour-enabled UGC is no longer the threat it once was, with just 2% of music video VIEWS from unofficial uploads” (emphasis added).

            Paul, did you receive access to a full copy of this report for the purposes of this article?

            What does it mean? The interpretation sthat comes to my mind is that 3 companies own mainstream music, the mainstream market is homogeneous in part because of this dominance, and the internet has made the big bigger, provided smaller genres and amateurs new opportunities, and hollowed-out the middle for professional independents.

          • Anonymous

            “with just 2% of music video VIEWS from unofficial uploads”

            This could mean that, say, 85% of music VIDEOS are illegal, given the fact that 1 percent of YouTube Channels get 93 percent of the views.

        • Anonymous

          “Rihanna’s most recent official video has nearly 400 million views, which would outweigh a huge number of illegal uploads with, say, 10,000 views each”

          Good point, especially considering that 1 percent of YouTube Channels get 93 percent of the views…

          Reply
      • Versus

        Thank you for the article.

        Understood that you cannot upload the report…Are you permitted to quote or explain the methodology of how this number was calculated?

        Some definitions are also requisite. Like what counts as a “music video” here, how album uploads are counted, etc.

        Reply
  8. Anonymous

    ahahahahaha

    This claim is only possible using data supplied by… Google.

    So yeah. No.

    Reply
  9. JTVDigital

    It’s probably a mix of “missing the basics of how YouTube operates” and “the RIAA is trying to orchestrate a ridiculous PR campaign” 🙂

    Reply

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