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IMPALA responds to YouTube’s latest article thirteen griping

By | Published on Friday 16 November 2018


In among all the subtle and less subtle article thirteen griping that YouTube has been engaging in of late, the Google company’s boss Susan Wojcicki wrote an op-ed piece dissing the European copyright reforms in the Financial Times. Now indie label trade group IMPALA has responded via the letters page of the same newspaper.

Article thirteen, of course, seeks to reform the copyright safe harbour, which says that internet companies cannot be held liable when their users use their servers or networks to distribute content without licence.

The music industry argues that companies like YouTube have exploited the safe harbour to force record companies, music publishers and collecting societies into deals that pay much lower royalties. Article thirteen of the European Copyright Directive would increase the liabilities of user-upload sites like YouTube which, music rights owners hope, would force the Google video site to enter into deals more in line with those of Spotify and Apple Music.

Noting how Wojcicki and her colleagues keep claiming to speak for grassroots creators in their more recent Copyright Directive campaigning efforts, IMPALA boss Helen Smith points out that there are plenty of them among her membership.

“We hear from Susan Wojcicki … that [grassroots creators] should be scared of the proposed EU copyright directive. Far from threatening our ecosystem, however, the directive will make things clearer, fairer and sustainable for all”.

Smith then summarises the music industry’s key arguments on the whole safe harbour reform debate. Article thirteen, she says, “clarifies that responsibility cannot lie only with the user and the owner of the content, but also with the platforms which give access to the works. That’s the clearer part”.

It also tackles that ‘value gap’ the music community likes to talk about, she adds, because with increased liabilities user-upload sites like YouTube “will have to play by the same rules” as the other streaming services they compete with. “No more ‘take it or leave it’ deals”, Smith writes, “same rules for everyone. That’s for the fairer part”.

YouTube’s other favoured line at the moment is that article thirteen will force it to only deal with big content companies, hence negatively impacting on independent and grassroots creators. Not so reckons Smith. “The directive levels the playing field in a way that means we can all negotiate in a normal licensing environment. That’s how you make the ecosystem sustainable for all. This is about the artists you haven’t heard of yet”.

The IMPALA chief then insists that the final versions of article thirteen currently being considered include “a number of safeguards” for platforms like YouTube.

And finally, responding to YouTube’s other recent tactic of talking up all the dosh the Google company has handed over to the music industry, both this year and in total, Smith says: “YouTube’s recent figures are designed to dazzle, but our members’ own revenue results show that for every euro from YouTube, Spotify pays ten euros”.

Concluding, the IMPALA letter declares: “This directive has been years in the making – decision makers know what the answers are. We can now move fast and we don’t even need to break things. Let’s not get distracted. Let’s make the online world clearer, fairer and sustainable for all”.

We await YouTube’s counter arguments to the counter arguments. Maybe snuck into cat video soundtracked by some grassroots music maker.