Business News Digital

YouTube plays down talk of non-disparagement agreements

By | Published on Thursday 1 February 2018


YouTube has played down reports that it includes non-disparagement agreements in contracts with specific artists. These would prevent said musicians from criticising the Google platform. Although the company admits that a small number of deals tied to original content or promotional work may include “general language around conduct”.

Bloomberg recently cited sources who said that non-disparagement agreements had been included in certain deals YouTube had struck up directly with artists where the Google company was investing in content or marketing. The newswire conceded that such terms are common in business agreements, but noted that they weren’t generally used by other streaming services that enter into partnerships with specific acts.

Responding to those reports, American artist lobbying group the Content Creators Coalition earlier this week called on the judiciary committees in US Congress to investigate the use of such non-disparagement agreements by YouTube in the context of the US Copyright Office’s investigation into safe harbour reform. It argued Google was using its market dominance to silence possible critics in the music community.

Addressing the Congressional committees, the Coalition wrote: “Simply put, Google has abused its monopoly power to give artists pennies on the dollar and appears to be further abusing that power to buy the silence of artists who might otherwise speak out and draw public scrutiny to these practices. With jurisdiction over copyright and antitrust laws, the judiciary committees are uniquely situated to get to the bottom of these apparent abuses. We ask that you do so swiftly”.

However, YouTube argues that non-disparagement agreements are not a routine part of its deals with content creators, and that the clauses cited by Bloomberg’s sources relate to very specific partnership agreements.

A spokesperson for the video site told CMU: “We do not have clauses in our standard partner agreements with creators, labels and artists referencing disparagement. In rare instances when we align our brand more closely to a specific creator tied to new original content or one-off promotional work, we may ask them to sign an agreement that includes general language around conduct. This type of clause is often used in the entertainment industry and is intended to protect companies, not so much from the words an individual may express, but more so their actions, especially in today’s times”.

Of course, the vast majority of creators who upload content to YouTube do so under a standard agreement that makes no mention of non-disparagement. It’s the small number of bespoke deals that include content production or promotional support that may or may not include that “general language around conduct”.

Insiders say that if you count every single content partner on the YouTube platform, those bespoke deals account for less than 0.01% of the firm’s creator agreements. Which means there are an awful lot of people distributing content on YouTube who are more than able to go round concurrently dissing the website. Though the company’s critics in the music community may still argue that in that small number of bespoke deals are some notable performers whose support for the music industry’s ‘value gap’ campaign would be useful.