We’ve covered the ‘value gap’ debate regularly and emphasised that it’s a slow-burning issue in terms of policymakers deciding how to modernise safe-harbour regulations in the US and in Europe alike. On the latter front, there was a development yesterday as Article 13 of the European Commission’s proposed Copyright Directive sailed through to its next stage, after a vote by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee.
Article 13 is backed by industry bodies including the IFPI and Impala, who see it as cracking down on digital platforms hosting user-uploaded content (i.e. YouTube, SoundCloud and social apps more generally). Or rather: at least forcing these companies to seek licensing deals, rather than rely on takedown notices from rightsholders.
“Article 13 creates an obligation on information society service providers storing and giving access to large amounts of works and other subject-matter uploaded by their users to take appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders and to prevent the availability on their services of content identified by rightholders in cooperation with the service providers,” is how the original draft described it.
There is opposition to Article 13, and not just from companies who’d be affected by it. Web creator Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales are among those worrying about the implications beyond copyrighted content, for free expression. Those concerns should not be taken lightly. Yet at the same time, it’s important to understand that this legislation isn’t about changing the landscape at a stroke for YouTube – if anything, it’s saying that other UGC platforms need to implement technology like its existing Content ID system.
Music Ally’s view remains the same: safe-harbour legislation does need to be kept up-to-date with the evolution of the web, and this modernisation process may well change the dynamics of negotiations between companies like YouTube and SoundCloud and the music industry. At the same time, YouTube’s work on its YouTube Music service – premium subscription tier included – is genuinely viewed with optimism by many rightsholders, who are throwing more energy into that positive relationship, and letting their industry bodies focus on the safe-harbour lobbying. Article 13 is important in Europe, then, but there is constructive evolution in licensing relationships happening outside it too.
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