I was supposed to be writing a review of the year in this month’s column, but one subject has riled me so much over the last few months I feel obliged to address it. Because we need to talk about Article 13.
There are few subjects that have been spoken about more within my circles over the last year and, make no mistake, this is an incredibly serious issue, not only for our industry but for creatives, artists and rights-holders in all corners of the world. The consequences of the outcome will have a far more profound impact than many people seem to think and, while I’ve chosen not to comment until now, I believe YouTube’s behaviour lately is cause for quite serious concern.
Firstly, let’s have a look at YouTube. A service built pretty much entirely off other people’s content. And, let’s all remember for a moment, YouTube is actually Google/Alphabet, the world’s fifth largest information technology company based on revenues, superseded only by Apple, Samsung, Amazon and Foxconn (who make products for most of the companies in the Top 10).
Yet they are saying that this would open them up to and I quote, “unmitigated liability and such a large financial risk that we would be forced to block huge amounts of video”.
You know why that is? Because their entire business model is based on streaming content they don’t own and paying rights-holders a questionable amount for streams based on advertising revenue. But they don’t own the content. Think about that for a moment.
Their argument here is that enforcing Article 13 will destroy the internet, at least if YouTube’s own ‘Save Your Internet’ campaign is anything to go by.
Well, I call bullshit, YouTube. It will not destroy the internet, if anything it will encourage the very foundations the internet was built on: the sharing of information and creativity; unique creativity that should be properly compensated for usage.
Of course, we have heard various positive things out of the YouTube camp, including Lyor Cohen’s call for transparency and their own active Content ID system. But, given their behaviour and attitude at present, our entire industry should have some alarm bells blasting in their ears. Shouting about the $1.8 billion they’ve paid into the industry may seem great, but those of you with comparable statements from Spotify, Apple, Amazon et all will know the so-called ‘value gap’ rears its head there too.
Let’s look at this another way for a moment. If YouTube and all the other sites don’t want to fairly compensate the creators, how the hell is anyone going to make a living from being a creative in the future? As someone who works with both global superstars and up-and-coming artists, I can assure you that the young bands I see coming though can’t live off the promotional value of ‘content-jacking’ sites, nor can the creative artists or creative industries widely.
I also have to question YouTube’s placement of what I can only describe as fear-mongering propaganda on its homepage. For those that haven’t seen it, YouTube are pushing out ‘Save Your Internet’ pop-ups across their service, as well as emailing creators directly. They’re actively using their position, fuelled entirely by other people’s content, to argue that they don’t need to pay for, or be responsible for misuse of that content. This feels like a step too far and raises some pretty profound questions around large tech companies’ ability to influence the political process for their own gain. We have an issue here and it’s one we need to seriously consider for the future of our creators.
Yes, we have content ID… Hurrah. But why resist making looking after rights-holders a legal requirement? You all know the names of other tech companies implementing similar systems to appease the music industry… Are we about to face similar fights with them?
It’s not often our industry needs to speak with one voice but, if you care about our artists, we need to stand together on this.
This month, I’d like to give a shout out to some of the leading independent YouTube rights management, take-down and monetisation services. If you have any content sitting outside of a deal at the moment, and you’re not using Content ID directly, check these companies out:
AWAL TuneCore InGrooves Ditto Lasso AdRev AudioLock