BASCA – the body representing songwriters, composers and lyricists – has outlined its criticisms of Lyor Cohen’s recent blog about YouTube. The full statement is below.

BASCA response to Lyor Cohen

Safe harbour a mere distraction? It actually means the price of the licensing agreements between YouTube and the music industry are not at their full market value because the market is distorted by this legal assistance, which was designed back in the 90s to help an industry in its infancy. Now those businesses are behemoths and the most valuable in the world; YouTube is valued at $40 billion, Google itself at $400 billion. In the same period the recorded music industry has shrunk by half of what it used to be, falling from over $30 billion to $16 billion. An entire global industry is now worth a fraction of one company; YouTube. The protection of safe harbour is no longer necessary or valid.

Relying on advertising income? Yes that is a model for income but there are problems with how it currently works; YouTube take 45% of the advertising that is ‘monetised’ by rights holders and this is too high a percentage. It is outrageous they are taking that much. Plus they take all of the rest of the advertising income that is not officially ‘monetised’ by rights holders too. Then it is too easy for users to opt out of adverts. So what is the incentive to subscribe?

YouTube now claim to have paid out $3 billion to rights holders. But in how many years? How many songwriters, composers, artists, publishers and labels had to share that? A few hundred thousand? That means YouTube has taken more themselves; just one company. 1.3 billion people use YouTube to watch 5 billion videos a day. This is an incredible feat; but they are not adequately sharing the proceeds.

Then there are the limitations of the Content ID process; there are only around 8,000 users approved from around the world, mainly record labels, who are authorised to upload music to this system; everything else will therefore remain un-monitisable. Youtube states “Content ID acceptance is based on an evaluation of each applicant’s actual need for the tools. Applicants must be able to provide evidence of the copyrighted content for which they control exclusive rights.” Which is fine, but they don’t give that authorisation to just anyone; they are very restrictive so independent composers and songwriters, those at the grassroots creating their own music without a publisher or a label are often unable to monetise their content.

Instead they excessively push the use of royalty free music in their upload process, in their ‘audio library’ so you get to choose between ‘sound effects’ or ‘free music’.

Another consequence is if your music is not in the Content ID system but gets used, and you don’t want it to, you will have to manually put in notice and take-downs. So – popular enough to be used, but not monetised, and not popular enough that you can stop it being used automatically. So each misuse has to be reported individually.

YouTube boast about the number of take-downs that are submitted each day. This is not something to be proud of; it is a reflection of a broken system. It is trying to mend the broken windows after they have been smashed rather than preventing them from being broken in the first place. Here in this world moral rights are turned around on their head; instead of first seeking permission from the creators, and other rights holders, to use their music – it is up to the creators to find the uses and if they object attempt to prevent it. YouTube has the potential to be better than this. It can work for the benefit of the many, many tens of thousands of creators, songwriters, composers and musicians who want to not only participate but benefit in a share of the riches flowing in to this extraordinary platform. As the Camden Council sign that overlooks Pancras Square, and the London Google office, very publically and ironically declares; for the many, not the few.

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