0 for 3: YouTube Once Again Begs Users to Turn Against Article 13


Fearful over Article 13’s imminent passing, YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki rails against the EU bill once more.  But, how long will she – and other company executives – continue to neglect paying copyright owners their fair share?

Several months ago, in a major victory for content creators, the European Union approved a controversial bill – the Copyright Directive.

The bill includes a measure ensuring user-uploaded platforms (i.e., YouTube) finally pay copyright owners their fair share – Article 13.  Google and its popular video platform have long exploited safe harbor loopholes to avoid large payouts.  The search giant, in particular, had spent over $36 million to ensure the bill’s defeat.

The IFPI found that despite having 1.8 billion monthly visitors, YouTube pays the music industry under $1 per user.  With notably fewer users, Spotify pays around $20.  The video platform is also responsible for fewer people subscribing to a streaming service, according to recent research.

And, no, Google’s recently-published anti-piracy study ‘revealing’ $6 billion in payouts to the music industry doesn’t count.

So, to rally support against the bill’s imminent passing in January, Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s unpopular CEO, had an idea.  Why not garner the support of its hopelessly exploited and neglected content creator community?

Engaging in scaremongering over the “EU meme ban,” Wojcicki told creators that the bill posed a “threat to [their] livelihood.”  Keep in mind that only 3.5% of all content creators earn enough each year to pass the federal poverty line.  So, unless you’re PewDiePie or Yuya, don’t expect to ever make enough money on the popular video platform.

Wojcicki’s strategy, unfortunately, didn’t work.

So, Lyor Cohen tried his hand at influencing major music executives in his monthly newsletter.  Speaking with a management company about its ‘success’ on the video platform, Cohen promoted baseless arguments against the bill.  Without citing any proof, Cohen stated that the bill would have “severe unintended consequences for the music industry.”

Unfortunately, Cohen didn’t think his strategy through.  Most major music executives and organizations openly oppose YouTube’s anti-Article 13 strategy.

Undeterred, Wojcicki has come forward once again to deride Article 13.  And, she’s done so without providing a single piece of evidence to support her laughable argument.

Please, please, please.  Reconsider Article 13.  Please, begs Wojcicki.

Hoping to garner support against the Copyright Directive, Wojcicki has published an essay in the Financial Times.

According to her, “creativity” has long served as the “guiding force” of her life.  Seeing an opportunity to work with a platform that allows creators to “share their voice, inspire their fans and build their livelihoods,” Wojcicki joined YouTube as its CEO.

Never mind the company’s continually-updated monetization policies designed to pay less to creators and singers in advertising revenue.  Clearly, that doesn’t count as a “threat” to creators’ livelihoods, nor its ridiculously low payouts.

Citing Google’s unverifiable study once again, Wojcicki claims the music industry has earned over €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) in advertising revenue.  Yet, Article 13 serves as a threat to YouTube’s creator economy.

Paradoxically, she also confirms that the Copyright Directive would hold the video platform “directly responsible for any copyright infringement.”  Yet YouTube has routinely argued that infringement isn’t a problem on its platform.

Echoing Cohen’s argument, Wojcicki claims the bill will create “unintended consequences.”  This will create a “profound impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.”

Keep in mind this marks the third time that a YouTube executive has claimed the EU bill will create ‘unintended consequences, hurting creators’ livelihoods.’  And, that this marks the third time they’ve yet to provide a shred of evidence to support their argument.

She paints European Parliament’s approach as “unrealistic” because copyright owners often disagree over who owns what rights.  Using ‘Despacito’ as an example, she states the video “contains multiple copyrights, ranging from sound recording to publishing rights.”

Yet, last time I checked, YouTube, not ‘Despacito,’ was at the center of multiple copyright infringement controversies.  But, never mind things like ‘facts’ for Wojcicki, or the video platform as a whole.

Because songs like ‘Despacito’ have multiple copyright owners, she adds the video platform would struggle to license the video.  Thus, the company would have to block the video and all others from ever appearing on the platform.  No company, she continues, “could take on such a financial risk.”

Of course, this would hurt all YouTube’s bottom line, including its already floundering streaming music service.  Blocking music videos from appearing on its platform means the company would earn less from advertising revenue.  The company’s 1.8 billion users, including music fans, would also jump ship to another platform, like IGTV or Facebook.

Again, Wojcicki doesn’t allow things like ‘reality’ to interfere with her argument.

Promoting the company’s flawed anti-piracy platform, she adds Content ID already “helps rightsholders manage their copyrights and earn money automatically.”  Over 98% of copyright management already happens on its anti-piracy platform.  Thus, the EU should shut down Article 13.

We believe Content ID provides the best solution for managing rights on a global scale.

One key question stands out – can’t Content ID peacefully co-exist with Article 13?  After all, the Copyright Directive would force major tech companies to install a copyright filter.  YouTube already has one.  So, what’s she decrying, exactly?

Avoiding that question, she explains the bill would “go beyond financial losses.”  Painting the perfect image of a suburban dystopia, European viewers remain “at risk of being cut off from videos.”

Underscoring the platform’s fear of having to finally pay content owners their fair share, Wojcicki concludes,

Platforms that follow these rules, and make a good effort to help rights holders identify their content, shouldn’t be held directly liable for every single piece of content that a user uploads.

But, why shouldn’t they?

Don’t copyright owners have the right to receive fair payment when others use their works online without consent?  With over 1.8 billion global monthly active users and counting, shouldn’t YouTube finally have to pay copyright owners across all major industries their fair share, instead of continuing to pay borderline royalties just to turn a profit?

Clearly, for Wojcicki, Cohen, YouTube, Google, and parent company Alphabet, the answer is “No.”


Featured image by Steve Jennings (CC by 2.0).

10 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    While I’m not generally one to defend Google, they’re not entirely wrong here. I think it’s important for user-generated content services to continue existing, and it’s impossible to run a user-generated content service and prevent all copyright infringement. If a UGC service is liable for any infringement they are unable to filter out, they can’t operate. There MUST be a safe harbor of some type, and it must be clearly defined, and possible to administer.

    That said, I don’t think rejecting Article 13 is the answer, as Google claims. The problem is that the safe harbor isn’t clearly defined. What is “effective technologies”? There needs to be clear instructions for what a UGC company must do in order to qualify for safe harbor, and it must be feasible to follow those instructions. I agree that the current safe harbor is not sufficient for copyright owners, but the expectation that “effective technologies” should filter out all infringing content is unreasonable. This is something that can be fixed by adding a few paragraphs to the article, rather than rejecting it entirely.

    • Jeffrey

      But YouTube claims they don’t have a problem with copyright infringement. So which is it?

      • Anonymous

        dont you have a Led Zeppelin case to worry about lol mr “overprotective” lol

    • YT Creator

      Yeah, such as adding the phrase: For the avoidance of doubt, YouTube Content ID satisfies the liability exemption of this Article 13.
      I actually have never really understood this criticism of YouTube. I use Content ID to place claims when our content is used, not to block. But, I believe I could set the policy to block automatically, if I wanted to do that. This is way ahead of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, iTunes, Spotify, etc. which have nothing remotely similar to Content ID.
      Content ID is the best solution in the industry for managing content, as YouTube states.

  2. Tenn Tux

    Who lets Daniel Sanchez write opinion piece after opinion piece under the guise of news?

    Hypocritically, Sanchez says it is a musician’s “right” to get paid but not the musicians’ union when they process dues for musicians — which by his reasoning should be free and without compensation.

    Does Sanchez similarly believe the very same funds should be processed by SoundExchange without a fee? Who knows? Consistency is not his strength.

    Oh, what a tangled web he weaves …

  3. chuck

    Hilarious Spotify has employees and interns posting on this board.
    Youtube and others will soon face justice for crimes against artists. The day is coming, whether it’s Article 13, or something else.

  4. Anonymous

    The good thing out of all of this is that after it’s done I won’t see any Europeans on YouTube lol

  5. Dean Hajas

    “We believe Content ID provides the best solution for managing rights on a global scale.”

    One key question stands out – can’t Content ID peacefully co-exist with Article 13? After all, the Copyright Directive would force major tech companies to install a copyright filter.

    Ironically, the responsibilities associated with “digital identification” one would think that the countries as members to WIPO would have governed successfully with protocols under their own Copyrights Boards and Performing Rights Societies already in place. For the past 30 years both CIPO and #SOCAN never required a digital identification process, only a registered title was sought and created. This gave even the Governments and the cell phone providers the opportunities to profit hugely and beyond the scope of YouTube ever has. In Canada ?? alone, 71% of Canadians own a smartphone, paying an average of $120 / month. 71% of 38 million people multiplied by $120/ month is the equation in fact, so Government argument pointing fingers at YouTube only is extremely hypocritical and only scapegoats their own responsibikities associated with “Fair Compensatikns” for use on streaming platforms.
    One would also have thought that CISAC execs would have performed their due diligence in pointing out this obvious set of parameters, not to mention the obvious failed models related to tracking performances in radio and television. Many PRO’s treat this sector like it’s a lottery, and of $36.9 Billion dollars in revenue in 2017, the world wide contributions and internet Royalties combined only add up to $275 million for #SOCAN to distribute.
    All listed in this response were players and part of the devaluing of our streaming rated at Superior Court level in 2003, Em when the legal definition of streaming was altered to take out both Performance and Transmission from the definition, thereby treating streaming now as a sake valued st $.000012 (nothing) per play. This left the lions share in the hands of the cell phone providers and the Governments ability to tax based on metadata packages value. The great theft chain does not exclude the PRO’s, the Copyright Board nor the Government bottom line, and CISAC – Jean Michel Jarre should be named in this responsibility as well. Ultimately, the digital identification responsibikities lay with all levels of Profiteering from the PRO,s to the Metadata providers, to the very Governments themselves, and as such, I don’t side with youTube however, they are not alone in the grotesquely under protected and under compensated model that has existed for 30 years now.

  6. YT Creator

    YT Creator here. Daniel Sanchez is either grossly biased or grossly ignorant. He does not speak for YouTube creators. He is providing mis-information for the uninformed. This a bad opinion piece, not objective reporting.
    BTW, as an extensive user of Content ID for managing rights, in my view Content ID satisfies the liability exemption in Article 13.

  7. Frank

    Susan, why is ‘Despacito’ still on Spotify then, a service that cannot rely on Safe Harbour?