The music industry’s hopes of finally quashing the so-called ‘value gap’ on user-generated services such as YouTube come to a head tomorrow (July 5) – and tensions are running high.
The European Parliament votes on the EU Copyright Directive in Strasbourg tomorrow lunchtime, with one provision within the bill causing more debate than any other.
Article 13 would prospectively force the likes of YouTube to be held legally accountable for all copyright-infringing material appearing on their platforms, challenging the ‘safe harbor’ protections these services currently enjoy in the EU.
Article 13’s opponents, supported by strong lobbying efforts by Google and the wider tech industry, argue that the provision will threaten the ability of people to create online memes, amongst other user-generated content. This assertion has been dismissed as “bogus” by music industry representatives.
Wikipedia has this week blocked access to its site in Italy in protest at the potential support for Article 13 amongst Members of the European Parliament.
Earlier this week, British music biz trade body UK Music accused Google of pulling the strings behind a €31 million lobbying operation directed at the European Union on issues including the digital single market, copyright and licensing.
UK Music CEO Michael Dugher lambasted Google for “behaving like a corporate vulture feeding off the creators and investors who generate the music content shared by hundreds of millions on YouTube”.
Today (July 4), the music industry is bringing out the big guns.
The IFPI has released a letter to Members of the European Parliament from Sir Paul McCartney which urges MEPS to “uphold the mandate on Copyright and Article 13”.
You can read McCartney’s letter in full below.
Dear Members of the European Parliament,
I write to urge your support for the mandate on Copyright in the upcoming plenary vote this week.
Music and culture matter. They are our heart and soul. But they don’t just happen: they demand the hard work of so many people. Importantly, music also creates jobs and economic growth and digital innovation across Europe.
Unfortunately, the value gap jeopardizes the music ecosystem. We need an Internet that is fair and sustainable for all. But today some User Upload Content platforms refuse to compensate artists and all music creators fairly for their work, while they exploit it for their own profit.
“Please vote to uphold the mandate on Copyright and Article 13. You hold in your hands the future of music here in Europe.”
The value gap is that gulf between the value these platforms derive from music and the value they pay creators.
The proposed Copyright Directive and its Article 13 would address the value gap and help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators, fans and digital music services alike.
Please vote to uphold the mandate on Copyright and Article 13. You hold in your hands the future of music here in Europe.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sir Paul McCartney
Speaking on Monday (July 2) UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said: “These EU copyright changes are aimed at ending an injustice that has seen Google’s YouTube and other big tech firms ripping off creators for far too long.
“These new figures expose the fact that Google is acting like a monolithic mega-corp trying to submerge the truth under a tsunami of misinformation and scare stories pedalled by its multi-million propaganda machine.
“Instead of mounting a cynical campaign, motivated entirely out of its self-interested desire to protect its huge profits, Google should be making a positive contribution to those who create and invest in the music. MEPs should ignore the big money lobbying from big tech and back fair rewards for creators.”
Stephen Cooper, Warner Music Group
Last year, Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper explained exactly why the music industry is so keen to force YouTube to be held liable for copyright infringement in UGC on its platform – and why this would have a material effect on closing the ‘Value Gap’.
In a leaked letter following the renewal of WMG’s global YouTube licensing deal, Cooper said: “Our fight to further improve compensation and control for our songwriters and artists continues to be hindered by the leverage that ‘safe harbor’ laws provide YouTube and other user-uploaded services.
“There’s no getting around the fact that, even if YouTube doesn’t have licenses, our music will still be available but not monetized at all. Under those circumstances, there can be no free-market ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ negotiation.”
Cooper added: “YouTube has a bigger audience than any other streaming service, which presents huge opportunities for the creative community, and we’re always hopeful about the future. But our experiences during these negotiations were proof positive of the acute need to clarify ‘safe harbor’ provisions under US and EU copyright legislation.
“That’s the only way to conclusively close the gap between the revenue YouTube generates and what songwriters, artists, publishers and labels make in return.”Music Business Worldwide