YouTube sounds call to arms as Article 13 approval imminent

YouTube has spoken out again heeding fresh words of warning regarding Article 13, the controversial censorship reform waved through by the European Parliament five months ago, otherwise known as Europe’s less theatrical equivalent to the implosion of net neutrality in the US.

YouTube has gone all-out with a new campaign, launching the website, featuring a video run down of FAQs along with testimonials from YouTube stars and other internet personalities, notably Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the worldwide web’s founding father. It has urged users of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Dailymotion, SoundCloud, Snapchat and more to upload their own #SaveYourInternet content to pressure the European Parliament into a rethink. YouTube alone has a monthly global user base of 1.8 billion, in case you were wondering.

As a quick recap, YouTube’s issue is that the proposed version of Article 13 would eliminate its existing notice-and-takedown system, meaning content sharing platforms would become liable for any copyright infringement from the moment a video is uploaded.

But YouTube appears to be blowing a slightly different tune this time around. Back in June, YouTube falsely suggested Article 13 would prevent the sharing of video links across social media platforms, which would be hugely counterproductive for everyone, unless of course YouTube were to stop allowing link-sharing and then blame it on the European Parliament (it hasn’t as far as we’re aware). However, this complaint has been omitted from the new all-guns-blazing campaign, instead going down the road of saying it would be left with no choice but to block certain content uploads and remove potentially millions of existing assets from its library, unless users can prove they own all the content rights, including audio.

YouTube’s Content ID technology currently claims to identify and remove 99.5% of copyright infringements but only after a video is uploaded, which is just not good enough in the eyes of Europe’s top officials – giving YouTube the dilemma of either facing unmitigated liability or to initiate a massive content cull. Both options sound expensive for the Google company, so no wonder it has pulled out all the stops to coerce a rewrite of Article 13.

At its core, Article 13 aims to appease rights holders while threatening the major streaming platforms, but would any ramifications be felt by video technology vendors? Presumably, less open video sharing sites would mean less content and therefore less viewing, meaning less streaming and less business for the video vendors, in theory.

But while internet innovators have rallied together, the other argument from the publisher perspective is one of creating opportunities for smaller content publishers and aspiring artists, putting an end to the unfair payment practices of dominant content sharing platforms like YouTube.

The European Parliament voted in September to move forward with Article 13, but the directive remains unapproved. YouTube has upped the ante as it claims finalization could come by the end of this year, starting a countdown for EU member states to bring Article 13 into national law within two years.

“Real people would be negatively impacted,” states YouTube, “Article 13 threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs – European creators, businesses, artists and everyone they employ.”

A joint statement from music sector bodies, including the Independent Music Companies Association and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said, “YouTube’s campaign against Article 13 shows a lack of respect for the EU democratic process of law making. The Commission, Council and Parliament have all reached the same conclusion, that there is a value gap, also referred to as a transfer of value, where user upload services are making vast sums of money on creators’ content uploaded by their users, but not paying the rights holders who own that content fairly. The result is a serious distortion in the European digital market place which harms right holders, other digital services and citizens.”

Naturally, YouTube’s campaign is directing people to its own Save Your Internet materials, but for those who would rather form their own opinions, all 243 words of Article 13 can be read here, towards the end of the European Commission’s full Digital Single Market directive.